In order not to discredit the institute of democratic elections in the eyes of the entire civilized world, Civil Network OPORA calls on the President, the Verkhovna Rada, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, foreign countries and their election administration bodies, as well as international organizations and international election observation missions not to recognize the results of the non-democratic “elections of the President of Russia”, not to recognize the powers of the self-proclaimed head of state, not to participate in the observation and not to facilitate the opening of overseas polling stations.

Firstly, the absence of sovereign power of the Russian Federation over Ukrainian territories does not allow the occupying state to appoint and hold legitimate elections there, and all elections in these territories appointed by the aggressor state outside its jurisdiction that violate the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine are illegitimate a priori.

Secondly, the legitimacy of the entire result of the presidential election of the Russian Federation will be called into question by the very inclusion of ballots received in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, especially if, given that these are national elections, it will be impossible to separate them from the general result, or their number will be equal to or greater than the difference between the winner and the runner-up.

Non-democratic presidential elections, like the authoritarian (totalitarian) regime in Russia in general, delegitimize the Russian government. One of the main tools which the people empower the government with is democratic elections. Their core is trust in their results, and, therefore, the real recognition of the government by the people without fear or coercion. In return, in conditions of immutability of power, lack of democratic rights and freedoms (in particular, free political competition and free media), the result of such elections cannot correspond to the true will of the people, which leads to the illegitimacy of Putin as the President of Russia.

Vladimir Putin has officially been the President of the Russian Federation for 20 years now. Only in 2008–2012, this position was nominally held by Dmitry Medvedev. Therefore, with account for Putin's office as a prime minister, he has been ruling the Russian Federation for about 26 years.

During this time, constitutional changes were tailored to meet one person's needs. In 2008, the presidential term was increased from 4 to 6 years to reduce the number of elections and subsequently limit the ability of citizens to change power. Later, in 2020, based on the proposal from an astronaut Tereshkova, Putin was allowed to run two more times. A propos, the latest constitutional changes are purely individual: the powers of other presidents after Putin will be limited to two terms in general, rather than subsequently, unless the Russian authorities (with a tradition of authoritarian leadership) change the Constitution again or repeal it.

Thus, Putin's rule will actually last a lifetime, which contradicts the democratic spirit of alternation of power. Elections in the Russian Federation look like formalities since the winner is likely to be known in advance.

In its “Report on Term Limits. Part 1: Presidents”, the Venice Commission emphasizes that in the presidential and semi-presidential systems the limitation of the presidential term of office is a factor restraining the risk of abuse of power by the head of the executive branch.

Neither the free formation of voters’ will, nor its free expression on the day of voting as components of the principle of free elections is guaranteed in Russia. After all, free formation of will is impossible without political competition and free media, and free expression of will is impossible in conditions of controlled voting. Likewise, persecuting political competitors, preventing them from running for office and restricting access to the media violates the principle of equal elections, because it creates an advantage for one specific candidate, which is Putin. Under such conditions, the key postulate laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Document of the Copenhagen Meeting – the will of the people, expressed freely and honestly in the course of periodic and true elections, is the basis of the power and legitimacy of any government – is not fulfilled by Russia, which leads to delegitimization of its authorities.

Why Does the Undemocratic Nature of Elections Affect the (il)Legitimacy of Presidential Power in Russia?