News ID: 205722
Published: 0625 GMT December 07, 2017

Putin confirms he is running for President

Putin confirms he is running for President
President Vladimir V. Putin, left, meeting with workers at the Gorky Automobile Factory in Nizhny Novgorod on Wednesday, where he announced he would run for re-election. Credit Michael Klimentyev/Sputnik

President Vladimir V. Putin announced on Wednesday that he would seek a fourth term as president of Russia in a March election that he is expected to win handily.

A full, six-year term until 2024 would make his 24-year tenure — including his years as prime minister. It is widely believed that Mr. Putin wants to use what should be his last term, barring further constitutional changes, to cement his place as one of the more important historical figures ever to rule Russia,

Calling the collapse of the Soviet Union one of the greatest catastrophes of the 20th century, he has built his formidable popularity on the idea that Russia should restore its natural destiny as a superpower, an equal to the United States in military might and global influence.

His crowning achievement in pursuit of this goal was the 2014 annexation of Crimea, which has kept his popularity ratings around 85 percent ever since. Election day was moved to March 18, the fourth anniversary of that annexation, as a pointed reminder to voters.

Mr. Putin made the long-anticipated announcement on the floor of a vehicle factory in the northern industrial city of Nizhny Novgorod. He delivered a brief statement in the seemingly spontaneous yet carefully choreographed manner he favors for major appearances broadcast live on state television.

It began with a worker climbing onto the stage set up for the occasion at the Gorky Automobile Factory — known by its Russian acronym as GAZ — to ask Mr. Putin if he would run, saying: “Today in this hall everybody, without exception, supports you. Give us a gift, announce your decision!”

Asked the same question on live television at national forum for volunteer youths just hours earlier, Mr. Putin had said he was still thinking about it.

This time, with the hall erupting in cheers of “GAZ supports you!,” Mr. Putin said he was running. “There is no better space and no better occasion to announce this,” he said. “I will run for the presidency of the Russian Federation.”

The choice of venue and the occasion highlighted Mr. Putin’s support base — workers of Russia’s big industrial enterprises. During the street protests in Moscow in 2011-12, workers at a similar plant in central Russia offered Mr. Putin their help in dispersing anti-Kremlin protesters.

Mr. Putin is expected to cruise to reelection, not least because of his popularity and the lack of serious challengers.

There is no denying Mr. Putin’s popularity. The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, dominated by Russia with 33 medals, also fueled his ratings.

Domestically, Russians experienced instability and poverty after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. After assuming the presidency in 2000, Mr. Putin brought stability and an extended period of prosperity, with Russians gaining more household income in the first eight years of his term — mostly because of rising prices for energy, the country’s main commodity — than during any other period in their recent history.

If anything, his popularity has been inching upward since the summer. A poll by the Levada Center in September showed 52 percent of voters supported him overall and 64 percent among those who said they would vote. The poll was based on 1,600 people questioned on September 15 to 19, the center said.

His strongest rival, Aleksei Navalny, an anti-corruption crusader and opposition politician who organized several large national protests this year, has been barred from running because of a series of criminal cases against him.

A recent entry into the race, Ksenia Sobchak, a journalist and celebrity reality show host, as well as the daughter of Mr. Putin’s political mentor, is running with what many consider at least the tacit approval of the Kremlin, to divide the opposition vote.

The rest of the field is dominated by novices plugging a particular cause or political war horses like the Communist Party candidate, Gennady Zyuganov, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a right-wing nationalist, both septuagenarians who have unsuccessfully contested elections for decades.

Some analysts consider Wednesday’s announcement as marking less the start of the election campaign than the beginning of the struggle within the Kremlin and the Russian elite to succeed Mr. Putin.



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