The 2018 Russian presidential election is taking place on 18 March 2018. If in the first round no candidate attains an absolute majority of the votes (more than half), then according to the law a second round will take place exactly three weeks later on 8 April 2018. On 6 December 2017, incumbent President Vladimir Putin announced that he would seek reelection for a second consecutive term and fourth term overall. Putin is widely expected to win as he has consistently scored higher than 40%—and often much higher—in opinion polls since the last presidential election.
The President of Russia is directly elected for a term of six years, since being extended from four years in 2008 during Dmitry Medvedev’s administration. According to Article 81 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, a candidate for president must be at least 35 years old and has to have permanently resided in Russia for the past 10 years, and cannot serve more than two terms consecutively. Parties with representation in the State Duma are able to nominate a candidate to run for the office while candidates from officially registered parties that are not in parliament have to collect at least 100,000 signatures. Independent candidates have to collect at least 300,000 signatures with no more than 7,500 from each federal subject of Russia and also from action groups made up of at least 500 people. The nomination process took place during Russia’s winter holiday period, and 31 January 2018 was the last day for submitting signatures in support of contested access candidates.
On 3 March 2017, deputies Andrey Klishas and Anatoly Shirokov submitted to the State Duma draft amendments to the electoral legislation. One of the amendments involves the transfer of elections from the second to the third Sunday in March, i.e. from 11 to 18 March 2018. According to article 5, paragraph 7 of Russian Federal law No. 19-FZ, “If the Sunday on which presidential elections are to be held coincides with the day preceding a public holiday, or this Sunday falls on week including a public holiday or this Sunday in is declared to be a working day, elections are appointed on the following Sunday”. The second week of March includes International Women’s Day (8 March), which is an official holiday in Russia. The bill passed through the State Duma and Federation Council without delay in May 2017 and was signed into law by Vladimir Putin on 1 June 2017. On 15 December, the upper house of the Federal Assembly, the Federation Council, officially confirmed that 18 March 2018 will be the date of the election, officially beginning the process of campaigning and registration for candidates. This date is significant in the country as it is the fourth anniversary of Russian annexation of Crimea.
On 14 February 2018, the CEC set the schedule for the distribution of airtime for presidential candidates. Debates will take place on five federal TV channels: Russia 1, Russia 24, Channel One, TV Center and PTR, as well as on three radio stations: Radio Rossii, Radio Mayak and Vesti FM. As in previous election campaigns, incumbent President Vladimir Putin refused to participate in the debates. Debates will also take place on regional TV channels and radio stations, which will be attended by representatives of all candidates, including Putin. Debates will take place from 26 February to 15 March. Vladimir Zhirinovsky was the only candidate to attend the first debate, with the other three candidates sending representatives. The second debate, which didn’t actually involve any candidate-to-candidate discussion, was attended by six candidates and Boris Titov’s representative.