Those candidates, that didn’t have the backing of a party in State Duma, had to collect the adequate number of signatures from across Russia, to qualify. With the backing of a political party outside of Duma, that number was 100000 and a independent run required 300000. Only current president Vladimir Putin, chose an independent run.
Pavel Grudinin and Vladimir Zhirinovsky got the blessing of the Central election commision first. Grudinin with the backing of the Communist Party and Zhirinovsky of Liberal democratic party of Russia, whose leader he is. It was a small surprise, communists chose a rich enterpreneur as their man, but it might have to do with rebranding of their image for modern times.
Besides Putin, Grudinin and Zhirinovsky, there are five other candidates that will participate in presidential elections. They are Sergey Baburin from Russian All-People’s Union, Grigory Yavlinsky from Jabloko, Boris Titov from Party of Growth, Ksenia Sobchak from Civil Iniative and Maxim Suraykin from Communists of Russia.
The difference between Putin and Grudinin, according to Grudinin.
Elections are to be held at 18 th of March. Opinion polls show, Vladimir Putin is a clear favourite. The last one from WCIOM has him above 70%, Grudinin at 6,9% and Zhirinovsky at 5,7%. Liberal candidate Ksenia Sobchak is at 1,3%. In the last 14 days, Putins support is consistently above 60% in all polls. His support can’t be easily dissmised as state propaganda or his coming victory just a consequence of voter fraud. There are some tangible results of his governance, making him popular and besides, conflict with West has made him into a symbol of Russia, standing against sanctions, color revolutions and support for islamic terrorists in Syria. That also explains the meagre support liberal candidates can muster, as, like Ksenia Sobchak, they often go against Russian national interest, when it goes for foreign policy. Of course, it is true that media space in Russia is heavilly tilted in favour of Putin, thus giving him great advantage, but the real problem his opponents have, particulary the liberal ones, is a message, they can’t sell. A message, only few want to buy.
Western corporate media portrays Russia as a dictatorship and in that story they need an evil dictator and also a young, hopeful saviour. Long ago, they chose Alexey Navalny for that role. Navalny has been barred from taking part in the elections, because he was found guilty of embezzlement. Proclaimed as a liberal leader, who marches at the head of dissatisfied Russian masses, he has become useful for propaganda. Only real opposition candidate, they say, who can’t participate, thus making elections a sham.
Yet, that is a lie. There are eight candidates taking part in the elections and Yavlinsky and Sobchak can be proclaimed as liberals as well. They both talk much about the injustice of Russian political system, promising sweeping reforms, if they ever come to power. Which they wont, as their support is minuscule.
The truth is, real opposition to Putin in this moment are Zhirinovsky and Grudinin. They both can by themselves get more votes, than all liberal candidates put together. That is something, western corporate media can’t tell, because how would it look, if they admited that the main opposition comes from nationalists and communists? Not good. It would also not look that good, to admit Russians have more choice, than just Putin and Navalny, as it would mean, Russia is more democratic, than they claim.
Russian political system is not perfect and has many flaws. Media landscape in imperfect and economy is in to large extend state dependent, making it corporatism controled from the top, while in the US, it is more corporatism exerting control over the government. Yet, to claim Russia is a dictatorship, seems exagerated and promoting one liberal candidate, barred from taking part in elections, as the only true face of opposition, unfair.