Professor Luke March: Russian Elections to be Another Milestone in Consolidation of Putin’s Authoritarian Rule

Professor Luke March, from the University of Edinburgh, underscores that any surprises or intrigues in the upcoming Russian presidential elections are minor curiosities rather than significant events. He argues that these elections will further consolidate Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian rule, possibly securing up to 80% of the vote. According to March, Putin’s underlying message is clear: his dominance remains unassailable in the foreseeable future; any attempt at opposition will be swiftly quashed. March emphasizes his expectation that this pattern will persist without significant deviation.

Interview by Selcuk Gultasli

Professor Luke March, holding a Personal Chair of Post-Soviet and Comparative Politics at the School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, emphasizes that any surprises or intrigues in the upcoming Russian presidential elections are more akin to minor curiosities rather than significant events. He argues that this election will serve as another milestone in the consolidation of Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian rule, potentially securing as much as 80% of the vote.

The presidential election in Russia is scheduled to take place from March 15-17, 2024, marking the eighth such election in the country’s history. The winner is set to be inaugurated on May 7, 2024. In an exclusive interview with the European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS) prior to the election, Professor March commented, "Should Putin secure 80% or 85% of the vote, it wouldn’t be unexpected, as it effectively leaves no space for opposition. Once again, these elections are poised to reinforce Putin’s status as a central figure and patron of the elite. The message he seeks to convey is one of unchallengeable authority in the foreseeable future; while individuals may attempt to challenge him, they will inevitably face suppression. I foresee no significant deviation from this established pattern."

By delving into the Kremlin’s tactics in manipulating the opposition, both systemic and non-systemic, Professor March draw attention to the marginalization of dissenting voices, the crackdown on protests, and the co-option of certain figures to maintain control over the political landscape. March addressed the complexities surrounding the conceptualization of Putin’s politics, particularly the existence of a coherent ‘Putinism’ and its ideological syncretism. He highlighted Putin’s employment of paradigmatic pluralism to bridge various ideologies, ultimately fostering a sense of cohesion within his regime.

Assessing the role of populism and nationalism within Putin’s regime, both domestically and internationally, Prof. March discussed how Putin strategically employs populist rhetoric and nationalist sentiments to garner support and suppress dissent, particularly in the context of events like the invasion of Ukraine. However, March acknowledged the vulnerabilities within the Russian political system, such as economic challenges, casualties in warfare, and inflation. Despite these pressures, he noted that current measures are aimed at ensuring that no political entity can capitalize on these grievances, highlighting the Kremlin’s success in maintaining control thus far.

Here is the transcription of the interview with Professor Luke March with some edits

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