Page last updated at 17:23 GMT, Thursday, 28 February 2008

Viewpoints: Russian presidential election

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and his likely successor, First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev

Russians vote on Sunday to elect the country's third president since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Vladimir Putin is stepping down after serving the two four-year terms allowed under the constitution.

Dmitry Medvedev is regarded as a virtual certainty to win after Mr Putin declared him as his preferred successor. Mr Putin has said he will become prime minister if Mr Medvedev is elected.

Here six Russians give their views on the election and predict the outcome. They spoke to the BBC's Artyom Liss. Click on the links below to read their comments.

Andrei Volozhanin

Andrey Volozhanin Taxi-firm owner

Marina Litvinovich

Marina Litvinovich Opposition politician

Konstantin Zhilin

Konstantin Zhilin Designer

Anton Goltsman

Anton Goltsman Student

Ella Usachyova

Ella Usachyova Student

Sergei Markov

Sergei Markov
Pro-Kremlin analyst

Andrey Volozhanin is a taxi company owner who lives in Yekaterinburg, the Urals

Andrei Volozhanin

I am not too worried about the lack of competition ahead of this election.

We all know who is going to win - and it's probably a good thing that there's so little campaigning.

At least this means we as a country are saving money. Rather than wasting millions on election ads and posters we can actually invest more in making Russia a better place to live.

We have had a very stable eight years. Life got better, and I certainly wouldn't like to see any changes for the worse.

For me, the big question is: what will Dmitry Medvedev do with the country once he's been elected president?

We still don't know what his big plan is. I would say the main things he needs to do as soon as he takes office would be to sort out the tax regime, deal with corruption, and make our police force more efficient.

I'm not saying we need lower taxes, I just want more transparency.

At the moment, tax authorities can easily dream up violations, even if you do everything by the book. And then, as a small business owner you have to bear the consequences.

As for Vladimir Putin's future, I'm glad that he is going to be our prime minister. It'll be really good for him. I think he's now tired of being president, so he'll now get a slightly more relaxing job.

Then when he does come back as president - and we all know there's every chance he will - he'll know so much more about how ordinary Russians really live.

Anton Goltsman, a student at the Moscow Economics School

Anton Goltsman

Everywhere you look in Moscow, there are huge billboards reminding you of Sunday's election.

There are no strong politicians in Russia at the moment, apart from those within the "Kremlin elite".

Even if former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and anti-Kremlin politician Boris Nemtsov had been allowed to run, their results would still have been negligible.

I consider myself a democrat, but I would not vote for either of them as I'm not sure they are good political managers.

The other presidential hopefuls worry me. Look at them: you've got Vladimir Zhirinovsky, more of an actor than a politician, Gennady Zyuganov, with his dwindling communist electorate, and Andrey Bogdanov, who publicly boasts of being a freemason and who has, so far, failed to make even one strong political statement.

Then of course there's Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's next president. I don't mind that this poll is basically a rubberstamp. He looks ok, his outlook seems to be modern, he sounds smart, maybe he'll turn out to be a good man, too.

What I really want is for all this pre-election commotion to end. I want to be able to turn on the TV and watch the news, not Dmitry Medvedev's "videoblog".

Will he be Putin's puppet? Nobody knows. So far, his campaign seems to be based on being close to Putin - on "walking it together" as the TV commercials put it.

So, let them walk. Russia doesn't need political instability now; any changes in the elite will only harm the country.

Marina Litvinovich is an opposition politician from Moscow

Marina Litvinovich

What's happening on Sunday is an election in name only.

We will not be voting for a new president, as we all already know who has been appointed by Vladimir Putin to take up the post.

We have also already been told we're getting more of Mr Putin's policies.

We have been hearing a lot about a "thaw" which is supposed to follow this election. But should we really expect a liberalisation of Russia? Hardly.

Mr Medvedev has already promised us he'll stick to what's known in Russia as "Putin's course".

It would take a very courageous person to break this promise and it seems that Mr Medvedev is anything but courageous.

The Kremlin has done everything in its power to make the campaign as inconspicuous and predictable as possible.

This campaign is nothing more than a show. The script is based on the needs of the Kremlin, not on the constitution or on the law.

Those few who don't agree with the script are simply not allowed on stage. And curiously this show has a very limited number of viewers.

Those Russians who actually care to think about what's going on are preparing to boycott this election. And Western observers have also refused to come to Russia.

This all means that Dmitry Medvedev will be a weak president. How can somebody who has been appointed, not elected, be a strong politician?

Maybe this is exactly what "Putin's plan" is all about. Having a weak president who will remain on Putin's leash.

Mr Medvedev's main task will be to conserve the existing political system and to ensure that nothing changes in Russia.

Ella Usachyova is a student at the Moscow International Relations Institute

Ella Usachyova

This election is widely being called the most boring in the political history of post-communist Russia.

Two of the candidates, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Gennady Zuganov, have repeatedly been on the losing side in previous campaigns and are not regarded as serious contenders.

Mr Medvedev is likely to win in the first round with an absolute majority. Personally I do not believe in Putin and Medvedev's political fraternity.

Mr Medvedev holds more liberal views than Russia's current president, and he is likely to realise that a shift in Russian policy is the only way for him to become a legitimate leader and get rid of his image as Putin's stooge.

The new president will also not have control over the most influential political faction in the Kremlin, commonly known as the "siloviki", and during his first years in office will be forced to focus mainly on social and economic issues.

There are many scenarios after the election. Medvedev might return the presidential chair to Putin at short notice in a year or two.

Alternatively, Putin's image could fade, while his successor could become a charismatic leader with popular support. It is difficult to predict.

Konstantin Zhilin, a designer who lives in Moscow

Konstantin Zhilin

The problem in this election is not so much the lack of campaigning - it's the lack of choice.

It's even worse than it was during the parliamentary election in December.

Then, you had at least some choice - even though everybody knew which party was going to come out on top.

Now it feels like nothing depends on how we vote at all. Dmitry Medvedev's victory seems certain - predetermined by the Kremlin, not by the voters.

I am not trying to say that having more of Vladimir Putin's policies is a bad thing. Maybe stability is good.

The trouble is that nobody has bothered to explain to us why we're having a nomination rather than an election.

Why, for example, was former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov not allowed to register? They said he failed to collect enough signatures in his support - but how come Andrei Bogdanov, a man who nobody knows, had no problem collecting his signatures?

Maybe the Kremlin is afraid of something. But again, I don't understand what scares them.

They control everything. Even if opposition politicians were allowed to run, they would never have got more than 5% of the vote.

Another question is how Mr Medvedev will talk to democratically elected Western leaders once he's in office? What will they think of him?

I don't know what to expect from Mr Medvedev. I hope he'll do the right things like make businesses more transparent, for example.

I suppose we'll find out a lot more about him over the next eight years.

Sergei Markov is a pro-Kremlin political analyst and United Russia member who lives in Moscow

Sergei Markov

The result of this election is not going to be a surprise. We all know Dmitry Medvedev is going to win, and it's precisely why there's so little political wrangling going on in Russia today.

This lack of competition is not necessarily a good thing for Russia, but I am sure that over time this will be overcome.

The outcome of this poll is predetermined because the Russian people show so much support for Vladimir Putin's policies.

The Russian people have seen how successful these policies have been, and they want them to continue.

Importantly, there is also a consensus between the members of Russia's political elite and all political instruments - the parties, the youth movements, the media - speak in unison in support of the Kremlin.

There were fears that the West might interfere and change the course of this election - like it did in Ukraine and Georgia - but that's unlikely.

The reason is simple: people here do not trust the US and Europe after all they have done to Russia's neighbours.

Of course, after the election the US might say that the poll was not free and fair. So what?

President Bush said the election in Iraq was democratic. He also praised presidents Yushchenko and Saakashvili [in Ukraine and Georgia] for being democrats.

This all shows how biased the West is. Why should Russia should take Washington's view into account?

I don't think the country will change much under Mr Medvedev. There is a good chance that Russia's foreign policy is going to be decided by Prime Minister Putin, not by President Medvedev.

So there's no need for anybody to worry. Russia has been stable under Putin and it probably will remain stable after Mr Medvedev comes to power.

Do you have any questions on the forthcoming elections? News 24 and BBC World will put your queries to former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and a well-known Russian journalist on 29 February. Send us your questions now using the form below:

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