Dec 13, 2017

Vladimir Putin has a turnout problem

Election officials prepare a voting booth in the village of Gusino, outside Smolensk, western Russia, on Sept. 17, 2016. Photo: Sergei Grits / AP

The Kremlin has no worries that Vladimir Putin will be re-elected with a commanding majority on March 18. Securing a commanding turnout could still be a headache, however.

Legitimacy matters to Russia's leadership, which has a "70/70 plan": 70% turnout, 70% of the vote for Putin. But recent polling suggests closer to 60% plan to vote, with some experts predicting a drop as far as 53%. So what's sapping enthusiasm?

  • Putin's announcement last week of his intention to seek a fourth term removed the only real intrigue from the race. With no viable opposition candidates running, there's little incentive to participate in an effectively pre-determined vote.
  • Economic growth has stalled: The fastest Russia's GDP has grown since 2013 is 2%, and most people have seen their real disposable income shrink in that time. At the end of the day, pocketbook issues outweigh geopolitics.

To boost turnout, the election was moved to the anniversary of the annexation of Crimea, though Putin's surge in support after that move has become old news. And in a somewhat different voter incentive, select polling places will be turned into carnivals. Will either tactic work? We'll find out soon enough.

The bottom line: Putin will be re-elected. But the Kremlin faces the delicate balancing act of holding elections real enough to win popular legitimacy, but not so real as to risk an embarrassment.

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U.S.-led coalition in Iraq withdraws from 3rd base this month

A soldier stands guard at the Qayyarah airbase in southern Mosul on March 26. Photo: Murtadha Al-Sudani/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The United States-led coalition in Iraq withdrew from K-1 Air Base in the northern part of the country on Sunday, AP reports.

Why it matters: It's the third site that coalition forces have left this month as the U.S. gathers troops in Baghdad and at Ain al-Asad Air Base.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 679,977 — Total deaths: 31,734 — Total recoveries: 145,625.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 124,686 — Total deaths: 2,191 — Total recoveries: 2,612.
  3. Federal government latest: Trump announces new travel advisories for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, but rules out quarantine enforcement. Per CDC, those residents should "refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days," with the exception of critical infrastructure industry workers.
  4. State updates: Alaska issues a stay-at-home order — New York tries to nearly triple hospital capacity in less than a month and moved presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters who backed Trump's initial handling of the virus balk at call for U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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The year of the protest meets the year of the lockdown

Hong Kong demonstrators protest a government ban on face masks in October. Photo by Laurel Chor/Getty Images

The year of the mass uprising has collided with the year of the coronavirus lockdown, leaving protest movements around the world stalled. 

The big picture: The enduring images of 2019 are of protest — from Hong Kong to Khartoum, across the Middle East and through much of Latin America. Seemingly overnight, though, social distancing has made such mass demonstrations almost unthinkable.

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