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Lawmakers in Russia have set March 17 as the date for the country’s 2024 presidential election, bringing Vladimir Putin closer to a potential fifth term in office. The Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament, unanimously approved the decree setting the date. “In essence, this decision marks the start of the election campaign,” said Valentina Matviyenko, the chamber’s speaker.
While Mr. Putin, 71, has not announced his intention to run again, it is widely expected that he will do so soon now that election day is scheduled. The Central Election Commission plans to hold a meeting on the presidential campaign, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov urged reporters to “be patient,” when asked about Mr. Putin’s decision.
Under constitutional reforms he orchestrated, Mr. Putin is eligible to seek two more six-year terms after his current term expires next year, potentially allowing him to remain in power until 2036. Prominent critics who could challenge him on the ballot are either in jail or living abroad, and most independent media have been banned.
Imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny urged his supporters to vote for anyone but Mr. Putin. Members of Mr. Navalny’s team said they placed billboards in key cities with links leading to the website of their campaign against the Russian president.
Two people have announced plans to run against Mr. Putin. Former lawmaker Boris Nadezhdin and journalist and lawyer Yekaterina Duntsova have expressed their intentions. However, getting on the ballot could be an uphill battle for them unless they are nominated by a political party in the State Duma, Russia’s lower house.
Additionally, the Central Election Commission plans to implement online voting in addition to traditional paper ballots in about 30 Russian regions, and is considering stretching the voting across three days.
Analysts expect the vote to be more of a “ritual” than a competitive electoral process.