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“Russian Challenger Silenced: No Presidential Race Against Putin

In a move that is both shocking and unsurprising, a Russian presidential candidate has been blocked from facing President Vladimir Putin in the March presidential election. Ivan Volynkin, an independent, anti-war candidate, announced on February 7th that a court in Chechnya had barred his path to the ballot paper due to allegations of forgery in his registration documents. In response to media inquiries, Volynkin derisively stated, “For them, I am a fly in ointment”. Despite fierce criticism from the international community, President Putin still holds a steady approval rating in Russia, with a Levada Centre poll indicating that 68% of Russians are planning to vote for him. The disqualification of Volynkin highlights the lack of effective opposition faced by President Putin in the upcoming election, and raises questions about the tightly controlled political and media environment in the country. This controversy comes on the heels of a report issued by the OSCE’s election monitoring arm which noted that the current environment in Russia is less than conducive to a free and fair election. Ivan Volynkin is just one of numerous presidential candidates that have been denied registration for the upcoming elections, including the esteemed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. All of these potential candidates have a common connection: they are outspoken critics of Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian rule. The result of such devious tactics has led to a meticulously planned and unimaginative presidential campaign marred by political imbalances and a lack of democratic choices. Though difficult to predict, it is widely expected that Russia will witness a landslide victory for the incumbent President, providing him with another six years at the helm. The question of free and fair elections must now be posed to both domestic and international political circles. In order to ensure the integrity of the electoral process and maintain a sense of political fairness, Putin must face a credible level of opposition at the polls. Until that happens, Russia’s electoral landscape will remain in an undesirable position.