The 1993 constitution declares Russia a democratic, federative, law-based state with a republican form of government. State power is divided among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Diversity of ideologies and religions is sanctioned, and a state or compulsory ideology may not be adopted.
Constitution: Constitution of Russia
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Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny on Sept. 23 after being released from a hospital in Germany where he was treated for severe poisoning, for which he has blamed Putin. Alexey Navalny's Instagram Account / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Even eliminating viable opposition can’t ensure certain victories at the polls. To eliminate all risk, as Russia demonstrates, autocrats must take four additional steps:
Declare victory immediately and allow no questioning of the results.
Emerging from a decade of economic and political chaos in 2000, President Vladimir Putin honed his electoral machine to do just that. The Kremlin used its media control to project a dominant narrative in support of Putin. He never campaigned for votes. He appeared nightly on state television delivering new technology to hospitals or dedicating new monuments to Russia’s World War II victory. All this creates the image of an unassailable leader and inevitable winner.
Together with legislative allies, the Kremlin changed electoral laws at every election to maintain the dominance of the pro-Kremlin party.
Government officials, including governors and mayors who rely on the Kremlin to keep their jobs, also have developed informal practices to deliver victories. For example, local officials demand that state workers in factories, hospitals and schools turn out to vote. It’s common to insist that employees bring other voters with them or face losing their jobs. These officials also put paid loyalists on buses to vote at several polling stations in a single day.
There is an unwritten regulation that poll workers must be members of the pro-Kremlin party, United Russia. And they count behind closed doors, padding the vote as they go.