11/29/2007, 00.00
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Low voter turnout, only threat to Putin’s (expected) victory

The outgoing president heads the United Russia list, which is most likely to win a majority in the Duma hands down. However, “Tsar Vladimir” needs a high turnout to ensure that his victory will be credible, hence the use of hyperbole and pending doom rhetoric in his latest speech-cum-advert on Channel One TV “Vote for me or face the country’s disintegration.”

Moscow (AsiaNews) – In what for some is nothing more than an electoral advert in disguise, Russian President and United Russia leader Vladimir Putin warned the nation on state-owned Channel One TV vote for him or face the country’s disintegration. Thus, although there are only three days left before the 2 December poll to renew the state Duma, campaign rhetoric has not been toned down.

In his nation-wide address Mr Putin asked Russian to vote for him, warning that if the Liberal opposition won, the country would slip back to “a time of humiliation, dependency and disintegration.”

He warned against the “dangerous illusion” that everything is predetermined, that the rate of development and progress towards success are automatically guaranteed.

He insisted that his objective is to increase Russia’s defence capability and security whilst improving its status in the world.

Although results are foregone conclusion since the president’s approval ratings hover around 80 per cent, the main problem he faces is low voter turnout.

For Andrei Lipisky of the Novaya Gazeta, this fear explains Putin’s hyperbole and pending doom rhetoric. And yet in doing so he has found himself a prisoner at his own game.

Having called Sunday’s election a virtual referendum on his presidency and on his “plan” for Russia, a plan which he has never clearly explained, he now finds himself in quandary.

“Tsar Vladimir” as his opponents have started to call him would probably find a less than 50 per cent turnout hard to swallow. Indeed, a truly “national leader cannot be unnoticed by half of the population!” writes an editorial writer.

Similarly, Putin wants his United Russia party to win as many seats as possible so that should he need to, he can get the Duma to amend the constitution and allow him, for example, to seek a third term in office, something which is not currently possible.

For many analysts, this scenario is a strong possibility ahead of the 2 March 2008 presidential election.

And Putin hinted at this when he said that “the result of the parliamentary elections will, without a doubt, set the tone for the elections for a new president.”

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