The Kremlin is rallying support for Vladimir Putin’s election to a fifth presidential term by pitching him as the defender of traditional Russian values against the “liberal” West, as the war in Ukraine grinds on with no resolution in sight.
Putin said he’ll run for another six-year term at a meeting with participants in a military awards ceremony at the Kremlin on Friday, state media reported. That came a day after Russian lawmakers announced the election will be held on March 17, 2024.
The Kremlin plans to present Putin in the election campaign as the guarantor of a Russian civilization that’s under attack by a West bent on destroying the traditional family, religious faith and national pride, said three people with links to the administration.
That’s translating into harsher persecution of LGBT people, growing calls for restrictions on abortion, pressure on women to focus on childbirth instead of careers and efforts to boost patriotic education in schools in an effort to rally Russians behind Putin’s candidacy.
“Opposition to the West, protection from Western influence, and upholding sovereignty will undoubtedly be the most important thematic part of Putin’s election campaign,” said Alexei Chesnakov, a former senior Kremlin official and political consultant. “Moral justifications of this choice, appeal to historical tradition and justification of some difficulties of the current period by the inevitability of future victories are important elements.”
Putin’s certain to win the tightly-controlled election and officials are determined to deliver an overwhelming majority in a high turnout to portray the vote as public endorsement of his invasion of Ukraine. While he may trumpet Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions it doesn’t fully control as evidence he’s winning the war, Putin’s army remains bogged down against Ukrainian forces backed by billions of dollars in weapons from the US and NATO allies.
An invasion meant to last for days will be entering its third year by the time of the election.
The campaign will highlight new schools and hospitals in provincial cities to show social conditions are improving, though the war will remain on the election agenda as a unifying factor to rally voters behind Putin, according to an official with knowledge of the Kremlin’s preparations.
“We’re defending our traditions, our culture, and our people,” Putin said at the annual Valdai Club meeting in October. The U.S. seeks global “hegemony” and European nations are “destroying their roots that grow from the Christian culture,” he said.
At Russia’s Federal Assembly in February, Putin told lawmakers that Western leaders “plan to finish us once and for all,” and continued: “Look what they are doing to their own people. It is all about the destruction of the family, of cultural and national identity.”
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