With 468 congressional seats up for grabs in the midterm elections taking place this fall, 2018 is going to be an important year in American politics.
However, America isn’t the only country that will be holding important elections this year. The Russian presidential election will be taking place this March, and the outcome will be unsettlingly predictable.
As of 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin has an impressive 81 percent approval rating, faces little opposition and is expected to easily win the election.
In a true democracy, it should never be that easy to win an election. Competition is an essential part of democracy because it holds elected officials accountable to the people.
A Russian president who faces little opposition is a Russian president who is held accountable to no one. This should be grossly upsetting to the Russian people, and to anyone who supports the democratization of the Russian Federation.
In March of 2014, Putin led Russia in the annexation of Crimea. The annexation of Crimea is arguably Putin’s greatest achievement, but it is an achievement that is only great because it was made to seem great.
For 70 years, Crimea was part of the Soviet Union, but when the Union collapsed in 1991, Crimea became part of Ukraine. Putin made it his goal to restore the Russian Federation to its former glory by regaining control of Crimea. In doing so, Putin used nationalism to distract the Russian people from the real social and economic problems they faced such as injustice and poverty.
The staggering majority of local governments in Russia, 75 out of Russia’s 85 official regions, are struggling to pay the high taxes their federal government demands. Because of this, as of 2016, over 20 million Russians, about 13% of the population, are living below the poverty line.
Putin has done little to fix this and claims that American sanctions are the singular source of the problem.
The Russian people need someone who is willing to stand up to Putin and fight the corruption and greed that is keeping them in poverty.
The greatest opposition that Putin would have faced in the 2018 election was swiftly silenced. On Dec. 25, 2017, Russia’s Central Election Commission voted unanimously to ban anti-Kremlin opposition leader Alexey Navalny from running in the election.
The Central Election Commission cited Navalny’s criminal conviction for embezzlement from Dec. of 2014, which was widely considered to be politically motivated, as their basis for barring him from the election.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled, on Oct. 17, 2017, that Navalny’s criminal conviction was based on “arbitrary interpretation of the law,” and that his rights had been violated.
Navalny’s campaign operates with the goal of exposing and eliminating corruption within the Russian federal government. Ironically enough, it is that same corruption that has prevented him from participating in the election and sharing his message.
Navalny has not been permitted to make appearances on Russian state television and has been jailed eight times for organizing public rallies and protests.
Navalny has a powerful message of change that the Russian people need to hear, and Putin doesn’t want them to hear it.
Attempts made by the Russian government to silence Navalny expose Putin’s fear. Putin knows that if the Russian people were promised real change, he would lose the position of power he has held for 14 of the past 18 years.
As the Russian presidential election takes place this March, the Russian people will have to make an important decision.
They will have to decide whether they will join Navalny in his boycott of the election and regain control of their government, or if they will participate in the election, and, in doing so, legitimize the corruption within their government.
Amalia Arms is a freshman political science major from Crown Point, Indiana.