Does Mr. Putin “get it” with voters?

Election law in the Russian Federation prohibits presidential candidates from using mass media in campaigns until 30 days prior to the election scheduled on March 4. Parties can carry out certain campaign activities earlier in the regions but candidates are restricted from using mass media until February 4, this Saturday, so what was Prime Minister Putin doing over the past several weeks in writing three major articles for Russian newspapers?

Apparently Mr. Putin has nothing to worry about as the Central Election Commission has ruled that even while the Prime Minister used the widely read articles to introduce and articulate his campaign platform, somehow the publication didn’t violate election law. The commission ruled that the articles informed voters about Putin’s activities and planned policies, and therefore contributed to the well being of the country.

As you can imagine, voters understand the ruling and many aren’t too happy about it.

The Central Election Commission may not "get it" but most citizens do.

Independent elections watchdog Golos said that the Putin articles broke electoral law because they elaborated on his campaign platform on the major topics of  social policies, nationalist & immigration and economic policy for his third term. The articles received nationwide coverage in Izvestia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta and Vedomosti.

United Russia campaign worker (in blue, his vest spells "Vladimir Putin") hands out Putin newspapers in the city of Yekaterinburg early this year.

Elections Commission members defend the publications, member Maia Grishina told reporters that Putin was merely “giving his position on current and prospective issues.” Yes, he certainly was Ms. Grishina. The only problem is that his opposition candidates were not allowed the same luxury. Fact is, the opposition won’t receive an equal amount of free media at any time in the campaign, even after the 4th of February.

Voters seem to “get it.” The Central Elections Commission and Mr. Putin appear to pretend that they don’t. That is seldom a wise election strategy.