Putin seeks fourth term as pres­i­dent


• Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin said Wed­nes­day he would seek re-elec­tion next year in a race he is poised to win eas­ily, putting him on track to be­come the na­tion’s longest­serv­ing ruler since Soviet dic­ta­tor Josef Stalin.

Putin’s ap­proval rat­ings reg­u­larly top 80 per cent, mak­ing him all but cer­tain to win the March elec­tion by a broad mar­gin. While few doubted the 65-year-old leader would run, the delay in his declar­ing his can­di­dacy fu­elled some con­spir­acy the­o­ries and was seen as the Krem­lin’s po­lit­i­cal ma­noeu­vring.

Po­ten­tial ri­vals in­clude sev­eral luck­less can­di­dates from past con­tests and a no­table new­comer — TV host Kse­nia Sobchak, 36, the daugh­ter of Putin’s one-time boss.

The pres­i­dent chose to make his re-elec­tion an­nounce­ment at the GAZ au­to­mo­bile fac­tory in the city of Nizhny Nov­gorod. The fac­tory is a sym­bol of Rus­sian’s in­dus­trial might, and Putin found an en­thu­si­as­tic au­di­ence in the bluecol­lar work­ers who make up the core of his base.

“I couldn’t find a bet­ter place and mo­ment,” he said to mas­sive ap­plause at the plant. “Thank you for your sup­port. I will run for pres­i­dent.”

For months, Putin fended off ques­tions about his plans for 2018, fu­elling spec­u­la­tion about why he would not say if he would seek re-elec­tion. Some the­o­rized he might step down and name a pre­ferred suc­ces­sor.

The Krem­lin has been wor­ried about grow­ing voter ap­a­thy, and the un­cer­tainty over Putin’s plans seemed in­tended to en­cour­age pub­lic in­ter­est in the race.

“It was nec­es­sary to en­sure elec­toral mo­bi­liza­tion,” Dmitry Orlov, a po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant close to the Krem­lin, said in tele­vised re­marks.

Putin has been in power in Rus­sia since 2000. He served two pres­i­den­tial terms dur­ing 2000-2008, then shifted over into the prime min­is­ter’s seat be­cause of term lim­its. As prime min­is­ter, he still called the shots while his ally, Dmitry Medvedev, served as the place­holder pres­i­dent.

Medvedev had the pres­i­dent’s term ex­tended to six years and then stepped down to let Putin re­claim the of­fice in 2012. If Putin serves an­other six-year term, which would run through 2024, he would reach the mile­stone of hav­ing the long­est ten­ure since Stalin, who ruled for nearly 30 years.

Ear­lier Wed­nes­day, Putin was asked about his in­ten­tions at a meet­ing with young vol­un­teers in Moscow. He said he would de­cide shortly, then showed up at the GAZ fac­tory mak­ing his an­nounce­ment.

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