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By Claire Zillman
September 4, 2017

A female challenger to Russian President Vladimir Putin? Russian financial paper Vedomosti reported last week that it could happen.

Hold your applause.

Fielding “candidates” to challenge Putin is a charade the Kremlin performs every presidential election cycle. It puts forward a somewhat respectable opposition candidate whose bid for the presidency will make the inevitable Putin win appear somewhat genuine, according to Quartz. The scheme has worked better in some years than others.

And in next year’s election, the Kremlin seems keen to field a female stand-in. Vedomosti reports there are seven women currently on the shortlist. It won’t be the first time a woman runs for Russia’s highest office, but it’s been a while. No woman has given it a go since Irina Hakamada in 2004, and coverage of next year’s possible female candidates may explain the long hiatus.

“A colorful and elegantly sexual female politician would bring intrigue to the elections and inspire a new generation of Russian women to take up politics,” analyst Aleksey Chesnakov said, according to Vedomosti.

Analyst Konstantin Kalachev, meanwhile, seemed in favor of a female candidate—not for diversity’s sake, but rather to “build up some kind of drama.” At the same time, he warned against the prospect as a “dangerous dream” since women are a huge chunk of Putin’s constituency.

Putin’s own spokesperson said the Kremlin hasn’t considered a female challenger. “We haven’t thought about that in the Kremlin,” he said.

It’s not just experts and insiders who feel this way. During Putin’s tenure, the Russian public has grown less interested in seeing women hold high political office; only a third of Russians support the election of a female president in the next 15 years.




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