In the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk, political activists are raffling a car, while in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar, the prize is an iPhone X. In Berdsk, the best selfie will be plastered across a billboard. The catch? To qualify for a chance to win, Russians must turn out to vote. There is little doubt that Vladimir Putin will win a fourth term as president in the election next Sunday, making him the first Kremlin leader since Stalin to serve two decades in power. But in an uncontested political field, the Kremlin is worried about turnout. And with concerns that Putin’s appeal alone may not be enough to get out the vote, officials across the country are experimenting with raffles, competitions and the occasional referendum – like one in Volgograd that asks voters whether they want to change time zones – all in an effort to ensure Putin wins with greater support than in 2012.
“I think a good result for Putin would be him beating his 2012 results,” said Valery Fyodorov, the head of a leading state-owned polling agency, VCIOM, who regularly presents the results of his polling at the Kremlin. Sixty-five per cent of voters turned out in 2012, with 63.6% supporting Putin.
“My understanding is that the administration wants to pull, not push, people to these elections,” Fyodorov said. “And that means not using punishments or threats, but bringing people out to vote with better messaging and, yes, some selfie contests and referendums to raise interest.”