For weeks, Russians and Western observers alike have speculated that perhaps Vladimir Putin would quietly step aside at the conclusion of his current term in office when it ends next May.
Tuesday, during a speech to veterans and workers at an automobile plant, he quickly brushed those rumors aside, announcing he will run for a fourth six-year term in the March election. He told his audience:
"Yes, I will run for the president of the Russian Federation. Russia will move only ahead and in this advance nothing and nobody will stop it. Certainly, the foundation is always laid by people like you, the toilers in the broadest meaning of the word, comprising workers, scientists, engineers, designers, teachers and doctors. They are not just the backbone of our country, but they are our country, they are Russia.
With active participation of people like you, we will solve any, even the most challenging, tasks we face
Anyone who is at least 35 years old and has been a permanent resident of Russia for at least 10 years is eligible to hold the office. But, it’s highly unlikely anyone other than Putin will win.
A fourth term would keep him office through May of 2024, at which time he would be forced to step aside because of the constitutional requirement of no more than two consecutive terms. He sidestepped this requirement by becoming Prime Minister for a single term while Dmitry Medvedev, who had been prime minister, served as president.
The Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament is scheduled to formally set the election date for March 18 sometime later this week.