Putin Employs Forceful Carrot And Stick Approach To Get People Voting In Russia's Election

Vladimir Putin is on the cusp of his fifth term in office, meaning he would rule Russia up until 2030.
Vladimir Putin is on the cusp of his fifth term in office, meaning he would rule Russia up until 2030. via Associated Press

People in Russia and occupied Ukraine are heading to the polls over the coming days to vote in the presidential election – and it appears Vladimir Putin has employed some extraordinary measures to encourage a good turnout.

Even though the current president is a shoo-in to get re-elected for his fifth term – having suppressed all of the main opposition – it appears he’s very keen for there to be a large, visible turnout to legitimise his time in office.

The national vote is taking place over three days, running from 15 to 17 March, but early voting was introduced for the occupied parts of Ukraine “for security reasons”.

And while there have been reports of people trying to disrupt the voting system in some way – like starting fires – these are minor shows of disruption unlikely to impact the overall result.

Here’s how Putin has used both the carrot and the stick to force people to vote in Russia and in occupied parts of Ukraine.

1. Putin’s direct appeal to his ‘dear friends’

Earlier this week, Putin urged people to vote, saying: “Dear friends!

:All of us, the multiethnic people of Russia, are a big family.

“We are worried about our country, take care of it, we want it to be wealthy, strong, free and prosperous, we want living standards and the quality of life to improve. So be it.”

This is part of his illusion that democracy is going strong in Russia.

According to state media TASS, the authoritarian leader claimed, “we will do everything the way we want”, and claimed: “The only source of power in our country is the people. This is the key legal provision enshrined in the Russian constitution.”

Putin has been in power consistently since before 2000.

He also addressed Ukraine’s flurry of attacks on Friday, saying: “These attacks, pointless from the military point of view and criminal from the humanitarian point of view, as has been said, are geared to hinder presidential election in Russia.

“I am convinced that our people will respond to this by being more consolidated.”

The Kremlin even posted a bizarre video of Putin walking into his office, tapping on his large computer, and then acknowledging the camera after several long seconds and waving.

The screen then cut to the computer to suggest he just voted online.

2. Entertainment at polling stations

According to the BBC’s Francis Scarr, voters can watch traditional dancing and eat a few free pancakes at the ballot box, or pose with cardboard cutout of US commentator Tucker Carlson, after voting.

Other characters showed up at polling stations around the country, too, including Grandfather Frost, Barbie and people dressed in historical outfits.

Scarr claimed on X (formerly Twitter) that the Kremlin has been holding raffles in polling stations, too.

He added: “For residents of this district in Siberia, domestic appliances, bags of sugar, and even vans of firewood are up for grabs.”

3. Armed Russian troops go house-to-house

If neither of these attempts work, it seems Putin had a third, much more menacing option up his sleeve – armed threats.

It’s particularly difficult for people living in one of the four partially-occupied Ukrainian territories, like Zaporizhzhia, which Putin illegally annexed in September 2022 .

An investigation from The Guardian earlier this month found Russian troops threatened any Ukrainians in occupied areas with deportation if they chose not to vote.

Other residents also told the BBC that they were coerced into voting by pro-Russia collaborators going from house to house with armed soldiers.

Having the Ukrainian vote supposedly on side would also help to justify his brutal invasion, especially as Putin maintains the country is meant to be part of Russia.

The official emblem of the presidential election this year is the V symbol associated with Putin’s “special military operation”.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has dismissed the vote as illegitimate, saying they would be null and void.

It has also released a wave of drone attacks and a border incursion on Russia.