Russia’s Central Election Commission has received candidacy applications from 64 people for the March 2018 presidential election — “more than in recent years,” according to commission member Evgeny Shevchenko. Only 21 of these candidates are running as representatives of political parties, and 13 of these people have already begun campaign fundraising.
So far, the only officially registered candidate is Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who doesn’t need to collect any signatures to appear on the ballot, because he leads the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, which has more than three dozen seats in the State Duma.
In Russia’s last presidential election, in 2012, fourteen people submitted candidacy applications to the Central Election Committee, and just five individuals reached the ballot. In 2008, when Vladimir Putin did not run for president, 15 people applied for candidacy, and only four ultimately appeared on the ballot.
Shevchenko says the explosion of candidacy applications is due to the fact that Russia has lowered the number of signatures independent candidates must collect from 2 million to 300,000. Once the federal commission approves an applicant’s candidacy, the candidate has a limited amount of time to collect these signatures, in order to appear on the ballot.
Independents now need 300,000 signatures and candidates from registered political parties without seats in the State Duma need only 100,000. Though he’s been endorsed by United Russia, the country’s ruling party, Vladimir Putin says he will seek re-election as an independent, meaning that he will need to collect 300,000 signatures.
In late December, the Central Election Commission rejected opposition politician Alexey Navalny’s candidacy application, citing his active felony probation sentence. Navalny argues that this rejection is unconstitutional, though Russia’s Supreme Court has refused to hear his appeal.