Since February, 282 members of the Nenets community, as well as some oil industry workers, have cast their ballots in Russia's presidential election, which is likely to see the victory of President Vladimir Putin.

Members of a local indigenous community gather near a broadsheet with information about presidential candidates inside a yurt tent during the early voting in remote areas ahead of the presidential election at a reindeer camping ground in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, on March 1, 2018.
Members of a local indigenous community gather near a broadsheet with information about presidential candidates inside a yurt tent during the early voting in remote areas ahead of the presidential election at a reindeer camping ground in Nenets Autonomous District, Russia, on March 1, 2018. (Reuters)

Russia will hold a presidential election on Sunday, but voting has already begun in the flat, snow-covered expanses of the Siberian Arctic, which is home to the nomadic Nenets people who herd reindeer.

Since late February, 282 members of the Nenets community, as well as some oil industry workers, have begun casting their ballots.

Kremlin politics and the six-lane motorways of Moscow may feel a world away in the Nenets Autonomous Region, 1,570 km northeast of the capital, where temperatures can drop to -40 degrees Celsius.

Election officials can only reach the nomadic voters when weather permits. 

A blizzard last week saw visibility in some areas drop as low as 10 metres, interrupting their daily helicopter flights.

Members of the community only visit the local capital, the small town of Naryan Mar, to renew passports and bring pregnant women to the maternity ward, election commission officials say.

So strangers, especially ones with ballot boxes, are a rare event and the atmosphere is festive, even though the outcome of the election is not seriously in doubt.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a rally to support his bid in the upcoming presidential election at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia on March 3, 2018.
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a rally to support his bid in the upcoming presidential election at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia on March 3, 2018. (Reuters)

Putin to win fourth term in office

President Vladimir Putin is expected to win a fourth term in office with 69 percent of the vote, according to the latest survey by a state-run pollster.

In Crimea, which is participating in a Russian presidential election for the first time since the territory was annexed from Ukraine in 2014, engineer Andrei Lukinykh said Putin was the only candidate who could provide stability in tough times.

“As the saying goes, you don’t change your horses mid-stream. Unlike the others, my candidate can provide the stability that’s needed,” Lukinykh said.

Putin’s victory in the presidential election is not in doubt as his ratings are high; and he has the state machinery behind him, but how long the man who has dominated Russia for nearly 18 years wants to stay in power is uncertain.

The constitution limits the president to two successive terms, obliging him to step down at the end of his mandate — as he did in 2008 after serving two four-year terms.

His mandate will not expire until 2024, but the problem needs immediate attention because the uncertainty about his long-term future is a source of instability in a fractious ruling elite that only he can keep in check.

If Putin wants the constitution changed to allow a third successive term, he will need two-thirds support in the lower house of parliament, three-quarters in the upper chamber and approval in two-thirds of regional legislatures.

All are institutions where Kremlin allies are the overwhelming majority, but Putin has said he will not change the constitution to stay in power.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies