Although Putin could no doubt engage in some electoral chicanery to ensure that he is re-elected with a large majority, he will, however, be seeking to be backed by a significant mandate. He wants the election to appear to be a free and fair ballot.
He needs the election to be seen as “clean” as a means of cementing his legacy as Russian state leader. He does not want history to remember him as a leader who could only remain in power as a dictator.
And it seems that he will be re-elected by a clear majority of the Russian people. As leader, Putin has regularly been recorded as enjoying popular support. He recently had an 80 per cent approval rating.
The caveat is, of course, that the state-sponsored Russian media has always backed Putin and painted him in a very flattering light.
Also, in recent years, and especially since the 2022 war in Ukraine began, any news outlets that were critical of either Putin or more widely of state policy have been severely clamped down on or even forced out of the country. Russia has a media that is now totally in Putin’s hands.
Putin also needs to win, and win handsomely, to ward off any challenges to his rule from within his supposed power base. Since coming to power, he has developed a significant web of patronage links involving people in the various “power ministries” and senior political figures, oligarchs and military leaders.
In essence, they all rely for their own leading – and wealth-creating – positions on the fact that Putin’s hand remains steady on the Russian state tiller.
But if the electorate appears to decide that Putin does not enjoy their popular support – and that he is therefore a weak leader – then a significant number of those people in positions of power – the “siloviki” (strongmen) – may feel that they have to act. They may want to unseat him in order to retain the state stability that serves their interests.