Despite Vladimir Putin's expected victory, Russian election served important purpose

Despite Vladimir Putin's expected victory, Russian election served important purpose

Despite Vladimir Putin's expected victory, Russian election served important purpose

Updated 20 March 2018, 2:55 AEDT

Despite the results of the Russian election being pretty much known before the votes were counted, there's still one important reason why this seemingly "fake" election should be held, writes Europe correspondent James Glenday.

So, Vladimir Putin won his nation's presidential "election" race in a "landslide".

What a shock!

With no serious competitor and almost total control over the media, not even the Kremlin could suggest with a straight face this result was ever in doubt.

It is staggeringly easy to poke fun at a process with so many obvious democratic deficits.

The images of officials appearing to stuff ballot boxes in remote Russian regions are bizarre, not to mention the complaints from some citizens that they were forced to vote multiple times.

I find this particularly amusing considering how closely the ABC was supervised, monitored and checked when we entered a polling booth or filmed on the street.

Even an election coordinator in central Moscow confided to me in an awkward, embarrassed kind of way that "irregularities" and "widespread voter fraud" were fairly common.

It seems highly unlikely he was a Putin supporter — they have spent the past 10 days claiming Russia's version of democracy is its own "unique" process that I can't comprehend due to my misguided, western "Russophobic" ways.

But to purely mock or focus on the broader geopolitical consequences of Vladimir Putin's "re-election" — quote marks intended — is to miss a few interesting aspects of this whole, theatrical process.

Russians, the many we met at least, seem to genuinely like voting, even though they almost all know the outcome has already been decided.

In their eyes, the fact they can actually cast a ballot puts them miles ahead of a stack of other countries.

Opposition supporters of course are campaigning for change.

But even had the banned and oft-arrested Alexei Navalny been allowed to run, it's highly unlikely he would have forced the election into a second round.

It's true, no-one knows for sure what would happen if Russia suddenly gave its people the freedom to openly, safely challenge the political establishment, though it's safe to say there's no sign that's about to happen.

And that seems at least partly because Mr Putin appears to have a solid support base.

Russians have repeatedly told us, "they're not better off", "life isn't better", but they think their President is carving out a greater place for them on the world stage and that makes them very proud.

So the "election", while flawed, serves a purpose — it's almost a sort of ritual.

In the eyes of many Russians, the process, the show, legitimises Mr Putin's enormous power at home and licenses him to keep projecting it abroad.

Here, many expect him to keep antagonising and confronting Western nations for the next six years.