Russians plan protests against Putin in advance of presidential elections
Vladimir Putin, the former Russian president who is once again running for the office, is facing a wave of popular opposition to him claiming a third and potentially fourth term as Russia's president. Still, he's expected to win the election.
Vladimir Putin is facing growing dissension over his effort to secure a third term as president of Russia.
Some Russians are beginning to say two terms was enough. Putin stepped down after his second term because Russian law prohibits someone from serving three consecutive terms. It's widely assumed Putin will win re-election, despite the outpouring of anger, if for no other reason than through fraud.
It's widely believed that fraud and ballot-stuffing swung enough seats in parliamentary elections late last year toward Putin's party so that it maintains the largest share of seats in parliament.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to flood the streets over the weekend to demand that next month’s presidential elections be free and fair.
BBC reporter James Coomarasamy has been travelling the Russian countryside, trying to gauge the mood in advance of the elections. He said the bitter cold gripping the nation right now may be the only thing that keeps the crowds across the country low.
"They are predicting -25 overnight and that could have an effect," Coomarasamy said. "Here in Moscow, there is a group of generally young, quite middle class people who really do feel, the elections in December were stolen and also do not like the fact Vladimir Putin is being foisted in them possibly for another 12 years if he's re-elected under the new terms of the constitution."
There's a committed band of tech-savvy young people in Moscow who feel like they've been taken for granted. While they've done well under and after Putin, they want to be as well-off as people their age in Europe.
"They feel Russia has changed and the leadership needs to change with it," Coomarasamy said.
There are smaller protests happening all over the country. And in those smaller cities, the protests include more diverse groups — not just the young, well-off and tech-savvy.
"They like the current president, Dmitry Medvedev. Once 78-year-old told me, 'I want the chance to vote for him. Why is that being taken away from me.'" Coomarasamy said. "So, for various reasons, there's this rumble of discontent throughout the country."
But the reality is the competition against Putin is comparatively weak, making it unlikely anyone can unite the angry factions and successfully win election.
"There is no one you'll find in Russia who doubts that Vladimir Putin will become president again," Coomarasamy said. "The only slight question is over whether he'll do it in the first round or not."
Putin needs to achieve at least 50 percent of the vote in the first election to avoid a run-off. In recent days, Putin himself has raised the possibility that he won't win enough votes initially.
"That would, though, be somewhat of a slap across the face for him, because he has enjoyed huge, huge levels of popularity," Coomarasamy said. "Though as we saw in the December elections, his party really has slipped in the polls."
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