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The Daily Vertical: Can We Really Call This An Election? (Transcript)

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

Lev Gudkov's announcement was a sign of the times.

The head of the independent Levada Center told Vedomosti this week that because it has been branded a foreign agent, the pollster has been forced to stop publishing its voter surveys about Russia's presidential election.

Now think about that for a minute.

Russia's most authoritative pollster, the one everybody counts on for accurate information about the mood of the electorate, has effectively been muzzled; which means the only public opinion data we will get from here on in will be from Kremlin-friendly agencies.

So the country's most respected pollster is facing a de facto gag order -- and yet we continue to call the event that will happen on March 18 an election.

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The most country's most viable opposition candidate, Aleksei Navalny, is barred from the ballot -- but we continue to say Russia will hold an election in two months' time.

Vladimir Putin's opponents are all handpicked by the Kremlin -- and yet we insist on calling this an election.

Perhaps it is time to come up with a different word.

It has, of course, been a long time since Russia's elections were actually elections.

In fact, they've long been little more than elaborate and expensive legitimization rituals.

But here's the thing. In the past, the Kremlin went to great lengths to make it appear that the ritual at least had the veneer of legitimacy.

Now they are not even trying. Now they are not even pretending.

So when all the votes have been counted on March 18, Putin will no doubt be able to yet again claim a decisive victory.

But how much legitimacy will that truly give him?

Keep telling me what you think on The Power Vertical's Twitter feed and on our Facebook page.

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