How Putin's Russia Challenges Democracy Worldwide

Russia is at a major turning point with another big election coming up.

by Faruk Imamovic
How Putin's Russia Challenges Democracy Worldwide
© Getty Images/Oleg Nikishin

Russia is at a major turning point with another big election coming up. President Vladimir Putin looks set to win another term, which would keep him in power for a really long time. This situation is bringing up a lot of concerns about what's happening inside Russia's government and what the future might look like.

On March 15, people all across Russia will be voting in this important election, and it's expected to make Putin's position even stronger, keeping him in charge for many more years.

Putin's Uncontested Reign

This election comes under a dark cloud with the passing of Alexey Navalny, a key figure opposing Putin, who died while in prison.

His death points to a serious issue: there doesn't seem to be any plan for who will take over after Putin. This makes people wonder what's going to happen to Russia's politics once Putin is no longer around. At 71, Putin is still very much in charge and looks to be in good health, even outliving the average life span of Russian men.

Thanks to changes in the law back in 2020, he could stay president until 2036, which means he doesn't have to worry much about anyone else taking his spot. A spokesperson for the Kremlin even said Putin has the full support of the people, suggesting he's the only one who can run the show.

But if you look a little closer, things aren't as solid as they seem. The whole system could shake up if something happens to Putin, since so much depends on him. Russia has a history of relying on strong leaders, and without a clear plan for who's next, it leaves a big question mark on the future.

The Succession Conundrum: A System Built to Last?

The issue of who will take over after Putin isn't just theoretical talk. Even though Russia has laws that should make changing leaders straightforward, things are actually a lot more complicated.

Putin sort of acts like a judge, making decisions in fights between powerful groups, a bit like the old Soviet leadership did. This setup makes people wonder how smoothly things would go if Putin wasn't around to call the shots.

Looking back at Russian history, like when Dmitry Medvedev took over for a bit in 2008, gives us some clues about how a transition might work. But those times also show us how flexible the rules in Russian politics can be.

Laws and political moves have been used to let leaders stay in charge longer than you might expect.

Dmitry Medvedev© Getty Images

Critics say that Putin staying in power for so long, and the way he's managed to do it, has shut down any real chance for others to step up.

Even though his re-election seems sure, and some say it shows he's got the people's backing, it actually hides the truth about how he keeps a tight grip on power and keeps anyone else from getting a say.

A Closer Look at the Opposition's Struggle

Cracking down on people who disagree and going after those who oppose the government is what's happening a lot these days.

Take the story of Oleg Orlov, a 70-year-old who fights for human rights. He got in trouble for speaking out against the military, showing just how tight the government is holding onto control and how hard they're coming down on free speech and those who challenge them.

There are more and more laws now that punish people for being against war, and the government isn't shy about locking up those who speak out. It's not just the big-name activists getting targeted, either. Regular folks, like Evgeniya Mayboroda, a grandma who didn't agree with the war, are being thrown in jail, too.

This whole situation is creating a really scary environment that shuts down any kind of disagreement and is slowly eating away at the very heart of what makes a society free and democratic.

A New Era of Repression

Russia's politics have been moving more and more towards a stricter, more controlling system where the government keeps a tight grip on pretty much everything.

They've been really cracking down on anyone who disagrees with them, especially people who speak out against war or challenge the government's views. Stories of folks like Oleg Orlov and Evgeniya Mayboroda show just how far the government is willing to go to keep their story straight and shut down any opposition.

This control isn't just happening out in the open; it's going on online too. Social media is under close watch, and people are getting into trouble for just saying something against the war or criticizing the government. New laws have made it even easier for the government to control what's being said, making it illegal to share anything that doesn't match up with what the government says is true.

The Global Implications of Putin's Rule

Putin's Russia is causing trouble not just at home but around the world, too. The country's bold moves, like the invasion of Ukraine, have really messed up its relationship with Western countries.

This aggressive behavior, along with how harshly it treats anyone who disagrees with the government at home, puts Russia at the center of a big global fight between the ideas of democracy and more controlling, authoritarian rule.

What Russia is doing doesn't just stay within its borders; it affects political power plays and the balance of peace and conflict across the globe. By backing leaders who also want to keep tight control and by messing with efforts to build democracies, Russia is pushing a way of running a country that's the complete opposite of what democracies stand for.

Also, the way Russia shuts down anyone who challenges the government should be a wake-up call for other places that might think a more authoritarian approach is tempting. Watching democracy get chipped away at and seeing people who speak out get silenced shows just how easily democratic freedoms can be lost if we're not always on guard to protect them.