By Ekaterina Zolotova
On March 18, Russians will head to the polls, and they will re-elect Vladimir Putin as their president. The conclusion is foregone.
And yet his behavior of late hardly resembles that of someone with a guaranteed victory. He has gone to great lengths to sideline potential rivals, he has demonized his favorite strawman, the United States, and he has hyped Russian military advancements. The entire political machine is working on his behalf. Reports have surfaced that students in Tatarstan have been bribed with better grades if they vote. It seems that Putin is trying awfully hard for someone running virtually unopposed.
The explanation for his behavior is simple: If Putin is preordained to win, then the election becomes a referendum on whether the Russian people will abide a system in which they, essentially, have no choice. This makes voter turnout all the more important. If legitimacy is the basis for power, then the elections will provide some insight
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