Putin’s New Election Ploy: Putting Challengers on TV

Ahead of the Russian presidential vote next spring, the Kremlin has a fresh strategy to drive turnout—and the election’s authority

Earlier this month, veteran liberal leader Grigory Yavlinsky appeared on a top-ranked political show to denounce Mr. Putin’s budget policy and military interventions abroad. And in a state-TV interview at the end of last month, socialite Ksenia Sobchak, a surprise potential candidate, complained about a lack of freedom of speech and called for new faces in government.

.. the Kremlin, analysts say, wants to boost turnout and dissipate support for one man who almost certainly won’t be on the ballot: Alexei Navalny, an anticorruption blogger who has challenged the Kremlin in recent months by bringing tens of thousands of Russians onto the streets.

..  the new faces will spice up the race

“The problem for the Kremlin is that the campaign isn’t interesting at all,“ Mr. Kynev said. ”Without that, it’s hard to get the turnout up, and turnout is the key to legitimacy.”

.. Mr. Yavlinsky, a bookish economist who ran for president in 1996 and 2000, was struck off the ballot last time on a technicality.

.. “Yavlinsky is harmless whether he’s on TV or not. He’s stuck to the same melody for years,” said Alexey Chesnakov, a former Kremlin aide who now heads the Center for Current Policy, a think tank.

As for Ms. Sobchak, Mr. Chesnakov said she “won’t take votes off Putin. She suits the Kremlin.”