Vote in Russia’s presidential election this Sunday or get hyper-inflation and Africans in the army. That is the surreal message in a viral video meant to encourage people to vote in an election which polls show Vladimir Putin is on track to comfortably win. While Putin has dominated the country’s political landscape for the last 18 years, the Kremlin and its allies are still pulling out all the stops to ensure high voter turnout. The clip, which has drawn accusations of racism and homophobia in some quarters, has been publicized by state TV and watched six million times online. Alexander Kazakov, a pro-Putin political consultant who circulated the clip, said he wanted to ensure Putin’s win was utterly convincing. “Only then will Putin be able to conduct the best domestic and foreign policy,” he said.
As Putin, 65, prepares to serve what may be his last six-year term, Russian media, citing Kremlin sources, say advisers want a thumping 70 percent turnout with 70 percent of votes for Putin.
While Putin is genuinely popular, real competition is absent and authorities see turnout as a vital barometer of legitimacy. Critics say efforts to boost turnout are cynical attempts to help Putin further entrench.
“The authorities’ main task at this ‘election’ is to ensure high turnout to create the semblance of legitimacy,” says opposition leader Alexei Navalny.