This Sunday, the 2018 Russian presidential race reached its culminating point with most of the nation's 110 million eligible voters set to cast their ballots for the next president of the world's largest country.
From the far eastern town of Anadyr to the city Kaliningrad, Russia’s most westward territory, polling stations are opening for crowds of voters. According to conservative estimates compiled by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), the turnout for the election will be about 67 percent, though some 74 percent of respondents declared a “definite” intention to vote.
The VTsIOM data also identified the clear favorite in the race as incumbent President Vladimir Putin, who is projected to receive over 70 percent of the popular vote. Polls reflect Putin’s soaring popularity among Russians due to his role in lifting living standards in the nation since the turbulent 1990s, as well as a number of more recent foreign policy successes.
That is not to say, however, that this presidential election will be without drama and suspense. For instance, although Putin’s victory is highly likely, the big question remains as to who will be the runner-up.
Clash of the Titans
The 2018 Russian presidential election is a vote of confidence for the Russian Communist Party (CPRF), which has undergone a major rebranding following significant setbacks in the 2016 parliamentary elections.
The VTsIOM polls currently place Grudinin and Zhirinovsky neck and neck, with the former taking a slight lead, despite certain controversies related to his foreign bank accounts.
Grudinin’s communists are also fighting a far-left splinter-cell led by candidate Maxim Suraykin, who has repeatedly accused the CPRF leadership of straying away from communist ideology.
Opposition and New Wave
Another candidate to watch is Ksenia Sobchak, the reality TV personality-turned-journalist-turned-opposition politician.
Sobchak, who has faced widespread criticism for her controversial program, which includes returning Crimea to Ukraine, is facing a major challenge of securing 1 percent of the vote.
In addition, this election is likely to be the final chance for veteran politicians Zhirinovsky and Grigory Yavlinsky, who both participated in the 1996 presidential race, to prove themselves.
Zhirinovsky, who has played a leading role in Russian politics since the early 1990s, will turn 72 this year, and taking second place is the surest way for the LDPR leader to secure his legacy.
Yavlinsky, who has been a resolute critic of the Russian government for the past two decades, has faced increasing competition from a younger generation of opponents such as Sobchak, and therefore may fade from the political scene, after failing to secure a substantial number of votes.
At the same time, this presidential race will also test a handful of new candidates for the nation’s top office, including business leader Boris Titov and noted academic Sergei Baburin.
Sputnik will provide live coverage of the 2018 Russian Presidential election throughout the day, so stay tuned for top-notch analysis and commentary on the outcome of this landmark vote.