Explainer-Who is on and off the ballot in Russia’s presidential election?

By Thomson Reuters Mar 11, 2024 | 10:19 AM

By Andrew Osborn

(Reuters) – Russia will hold a presidential election on March 15-17 which President Vladimir Putin is certain to win, barring an unexpected development. That will give the longest serving Kremlin chief since Josef Stalin another six-year term in power.

Here is a list of the candidates taking part, and a list of those who wanted to run but could not:


In charge of all the levers of state, incumbent Vladimir Putin, 71, is expected to easily win a landslide victory and another six-year term. Reviled by Kremlin critics as an autocratic war criminal who rules by fear, opinion polls at home indicate he is supported by a majority of Russians who view him as the kind of tough leader needed to stand up to what they regard as a meddling and expansionist West. A state pollster said in February that its research showed over 75% of Russians were ready to vote for Putin.

A former KGB lieutenant colonel, Putin was appointed acting president on the last day of 1999 by Boris Yeltsin. He then served two four-year terms from 2000-2008 before becoming prime minister from 2008-12. He returned to the presidency in 2012 once presidential terms had been extended to six years, and again in 2018. In 2020, changes to the constitution were made which allowed Putin to serve another two six-year terms from 2024. That means he could stay in power until 2036.


A 75-year-old member of Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, Kharitonov is the official candidate of the Communist Party, whose candidates have finished a distant second to Putin at every election since 2000. Kharitonov, a Siberian, stood previously in 2004 and won 13.8% of the vote to Putin’s 71.91%. A state pollster said in February that its research showed that around 4% of Russians were ready to vote for him. The state TASS news agency has quoted him as saying he would not find fault with the Kremlin leader. “He (Putin) is responsible for his own cycle of work, why would I criticise him?” it cited him as saying. Kharitonov supports what Putin calls Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, but has in the past opposed some of the ruling pro-Putin United Russia’s party’s domestic policies. He enjoys the backing of Gennady Zyuganov, the 79-year-old veteran Communist Party leader.


A senior member of the State Duma, Slutsky, 56, is the leader of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR). He took over as the party’s permanent leader after the LDPR’s veteran firebrand leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky died in 2022. Slutsky, a regular on state TV where he voices anti-Western views, is seeking to tap into his late predecessor’s popularity among Russians by campaigning on the slogan “Zhirinovsky lives on.” A state pollster said in February that its research showed that around 4% of Russians were ready to vote for him. Slutsky has long chaired the parliament’s international affairs committee. He has spoken of the need for Russia to win the war in Ukraine and of the importance of keeping food prices down. In 2018, a group of female journalists accused Slutsky of sexual harassment. A parliamentary commission exonerated him; his accusers alleged a whitewash.


Deputy chairman of the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, and a lawmaker for the New People political party, which his father, a businessman, helped to set up in 2020. Aged 40, Davankov is the youngest registered candidate and the recipient of various state awards, including one from Putin. He has said he won’t criticise his political opponents. His main campaign slogans are “Yes to changes!” and “Time for new people!” Davankov has tried to position himself as someone opposed to excessive curbs on people’s personal freedom and – in the context of Russian politics – as someone who is more liberal. Without mentioning Ukraine by name, he has said he favours “Peace and talks. But on our terms and with no roll-back.” A state pollster said in February that its research showed that over 5% of Russians were ready to vote for him.


Navalny, who died aged 47 in an Arctic prison colony in February, wanted to become president of Russia and was Putin’s fiercest domestic critic. Navalny’s supporters accuse Putin of having him murdered, something the Kremlin has rejected. In life, Navalny accused the Kremlin of keeping him out of politics by fabricating a slew of criminal cases against him – including for fraud and extremism – in order to jail him. Navalny accused Putin of also having him poisoned in 2020, something Putin denied. The Kremlin cast Navalny as a U.S.-backed extremist out to destabilise Russia who had committed real crimes. Navalny’s main allies are either in jail or living outside Russia. Yulia, his widow, has called on Russians who support her late husband to show up at voting stations at midday on March 17 to make their feelings known. The Kremlin has in the past called such appeals “provocations.”


Nadezhdin, 60, had tried to run a long-shot campaign on an anti-war ticket, but the Central Election Commission (CEC) disqualified him in February. Nadezhdin had surprised some analysts with his criticism of what the Kremlin calls its special military operation in Ukraine, something he called “a fatal mistake” and has said he would try to end through negotiations. Kremlin critics say Nadezhdin would not have even been allowed to campaign and collect signatures without the authorities’ blessing, something he rejected. The CEC said it had found flaws in signatures that he and his allies had collected in support of his candidacy, and that some were of deceased people. It said that Nadezhdin had therefore failed to gather the 100,000 authenticated signatures needed to become a candidate. He has since unsuccessfully challenged his disqualification in the Supreme Court.


Former TV journalist Yekaterina Duntsova, 40, had wanted to run for president and had called for an end to the conflict in Ukraine and the release of political prisoners. Not a household name inside Russia, election officials disqualified her in December, citing “numerous violations” in the papers she had submitted in support of her bid. Her attempts to challenge the decision were unsuccessful. When Duntsova announced in November that she had wanted to stand, commentators had variously described her as crazy, brave, or part of a Kremlin-scripted plan to create the appearance of competition.

(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Ros Russell)