This week you need to know about . . .
Russia’s presidential election
The presidential election in Russia tomorrow looks likely to result in the return of the king who never really went away. Despite increasingly vocal protests over his influence, particularly after allegedly corrupt parliamentary elections in December, Vladimir Putin is considered a strong favourite to win a third term as president, with polls showing him with about 50 per cent support. Having served in the Kremlin for two terms from 2000 to 2008, Putin handed the presidency over to his United Russia party protege Dmitry Medvedev while taking on the role of prime minister.
He faces four opponents in tomorrow’s election: Gennady Zyuganov of the Communist Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky of the Liberal Democrats, Sergei Mironov of the A Just Russia party, and wealthy independent Mikhail Prokhorov, though Putin refused to take part in TV debates. If no candidate manages to reach 50 per cent of the vote, there is a run-off between the top two candidates, though such an outcome would be seen as a damaging failure for Putin.
After the controversy over December’s parliamentary elections, which prompted widespread accusations of vote-rigging (despite all of which the United Russia party still lost 77 seats), a range of independent monitoring groups are due to be present at polling stations.
Television coverage of the election campaign has been unusually diverse, with previously rare criticism of Putin becoming an increasing feature. There have even been some notable satirical shows taking swipes at the former KGB man. A win for Putin would further strengthen his grip on power – the presidential term has been extended to six years.