Putin urges high voter turnout for Russian election
The Russian president’s approval ratings top 80%.
Vladimir Putin has urged Russians to cast ballots in Sunday’s election, which he is certain to win, saying the vote will shape the country’s future.
The Russian president said in a televised address that “the will of the people, the will of each Russian citizen, will determine the path the country will take”.
Mr Putin, whose approval ratings top 80%, is set to easily win another six-year term against seven challengers, but the Kremlin has been concerned about voter apathy and has sought to boost turnout to make his victory as impressive as possible.
He urged Russians to “use their right to choose the future for the great Russia that we all love”.
He warned that failure to cast a ballot would mean that “this decisive choice will be made without your opinion taken into account”.
On Friday, the final day of the campaign, the president visited a medical centre in St Petersburg, his home city.
The president has travelled across Russia, promising to raise wages, modernise crumbling health care and education and pour more funds into dilapidated infrastructure.
Ksenia Sobchak, a 36-year-old TV host who has campaigned on a liberal platform and criticised Mr Putin’s policies, announced the creation of a new political party late on Thursday.
Addressing an enthusiastic crowd of mostly young supporters in Moscow, Ms Sobchak said the Party of Change that she will lead with former legislator Dmitry Gudkov would seek to unite pro-reform forces.
“We stand for a broad coalition of democratic forces,” she said.
Some see Ms Sobchak, the daughter of Mr Putin’s one-time patron, as a Kremlin project intended to add a democratic veneer to the vote and help split the ranks of Kremlin critics.
She has denied collusion with the Kremlin and said she was ready to co-operate with Mr Putin’s main foe, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was barred from the race because of a criminal conviction widely seen as politically motivated.
“He should understand that we are working for the same thing,” she said. “And now is not the time to bear personal grudges against me instead of the government.”
Mr Navalny has called for a boycott of the vote.
In a YouTube video aired late on Thursday, he mocked Ms Sobchak and other candidates, describing them as “clowns” manipulated by the Kremlin, and called on his supporters to press for change by taking to the streets.