NEWSWATCH: “Kremlin tries to stir voters’ interest in Putin’s election campaign; Slick, US-style apparatus set up in effort to present Russian poll as a contest” – Financial Times/ Kathrin Hille

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“… With 18 years in power … far-reaching control over institutions from parliament to courts and the election watchdog, and no serious challenger, [Putin] can afford to skip wooing voters …. the Kremlin frets that too smooth a campaign is dangerous. … voters’ passivity [includes] resignation that they cannot effect political change anyway … [that] could metastasise into widespread disaffection … more difficult to control. * * * The Kremlin is therefore considering means unheard of …. debates including the ‘main candidate’ … Putin has never participated ….

Authorities are also looking into holding referendums on contested issues ….

Critics … charge … all-out mobilisation to boost … Putin via administrative means will be a death blow for Russia’s compromised democratic institutions. …”

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