Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Putin arrives to give an annual speech from the Kremlin. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

This Sunday Vladimir Putin will win his fourth term as Russian president. One of the only uncertainties ahead of the vote is how big the turnout will be. The Kremlin had initially set a target of a 70 percent result for Putin with 70 percent turnout, though it may have backed off on that in the past few days. 

Still, why does Putin care about these numbers at all? Isn’t he going to win no matter what? Won’t he remain the near-Tsar of today’s Russia no matter how many people vote for him, or don’t? Yes and yes. But…

Elections in Russia are not an exercise in democratic accountability but a test of legitimacy — a regular assessment of how good the Kremlin is at shaping a particular narrative about Putin, and the ability of the “system” to reflect it.

The Kremlin will be keen to see if local, political and economic bosses are able to get out the vote without ham-fistedly messing with the tallies in a way that invites protests.

This kind of test matters because in fact Russia’s political system is a lot messier than you’d think.

  • Personal relationships and opaque power networks are often more important than formal procedures, parties, and laws.
  • At the center of it all is a kind of spell — if everyone believes that the system is holding together, then so it is.
  • In a somewhat paradoxical way, the basic tool of democracy — elections — are the best way to gauge the effectiveness of that rather undemocratic spell.

What happens if the Kremlin falls dramatically short of the original 70/70 target?

Nothing immediately. After all, Putin will still comfortably win the election. But it would sow an unwelcome seed of doubt about Putin’s ability to continually master the theater of Russia’s politics.

Is the old man slipping? And if so, do power elites who are oriented towards him start, privately, to consider an alternative? All of this matters even more now given that the moment Putin wins, speculation will begin about what he plans to do when his next term expires in 2024, and the constitution bars him from running again.

Sign up for Signal, a twice-weekly newsletter from GZERO Media, a Eurasia Group company, and follow @saosasha on Twitter.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate pulls all-nighter on amendments to COVID relief package

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democratic leaders struck an agreement with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) on emergency unemployment insurance late Friday, clearing the way for Senate action on President Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package to resume after an hours-long delay.

The state of play: The Senate continued to work through votes on a marathon of amendments overnight into Saturday morning.

The elusive political power of Mexican Americans

Data: Pew Research Center, U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Mexican Americans make up the nation's largest Latino group, yet they remain politically outshined by more recently arrived Cuban Americans.

Why it matters: The disparities in political power between Mexican Americans and Cuban Americans reflect the racial, historical, geographical and economic differences within Latino cultures in the U.S.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!