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There’s more at stake in Russia’s election than Putin’s pride

The Russian government is bracing itself for mass protests in cities across the country.

They have been called by anti corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny, who was barred from running in the upcoming presidential elections because of a dubious fraud conviction.

Katya Gordon will be joining them.

A singer, songwriter, journalist and lawyer she was also until this weekend another presidential hopeful.

In this song she trolls the President singing Volodya (short for Vladimir) it’s time to split up.

But she has dropped out of the election, calling it a farce.

She claimed she has been repeatedly denied air time because she is not one of five candidates approved to go on state media by the Kremlin.

She told Sky News: “Once Putin said that he wants to be a president again, the election was finished and there is no chance, because the system is too powerful and it is made to work for the main idea that the powerful people should have their power and they don’t care about the people.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin toasts with attendees after a state awards ceremony for military personnel who served in Syria, at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia December 28, 2017
There are others running against Mr Putin, all seemingly vetted by the Kremlin

There are other candidates running against Mr Putin, but all, it seems, carefully vetted by the Kremlin.

There is farm manager-turned-candidate Pavel Grudinin, who compares himself to Donald Trump.

Critics say he is a Putin puppet running to make this election look like a real contest – but he told Sky News he is in it to win.

“I am completely sure that if everyone will go to the elections we will win them,” he said.

Then there is Ksenia Sobchak, a TV host turned presidential hopeful.

She confronted the president at a recent Q and A session, but critics said it was all for show. She is, after all, the daughter of a man who was once Mr Putin’s political mentor.

The government doesn’t just choose who runs, but controls the media and even, to some extent, the opinion polls.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny poses during an interview with AFP at the office of his Anti-corruption Foundation (FBK) in Moscow on January 16, 2018
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is banned from running in the election

So Mr Putin’s challenge is not so much winning – that is almost a foregone conclusion.

Instead, it is getting enough people to vote to make this election look even vaguely credible.

If he is re-elected but on a very low turnout it will be a damning indictment of what – under current rules – will be his last term as president.

There is a lot more at stake than Mr Putin’s pride, however.

Katya Gordon is not the only one worried about the future of democracy in her country.

“If they wont change their rules of play one day we will have a revolution really.

“Russians are very calm and very lazy for a long time but then something happens and we stand and we begin to fight because we cannot stand it anymore.”

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