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It's generally agreed that there was cheating in the Russian presidential elections, with the aim of increasing the number of votes for Vladimir Putin. There were widespread irregularities, and in some areas, turnout exceeded 100%. This was documented both in central and far-flung districts. While Putin may not be directly ordering this, its extent indicates that it likely occurs with his tacit encouragement and approval. This make sense; he'd want to stay in power, right?

Except, why? Apparently Putin, despite his authoritarian tendencies, is genuinely extremely popular with the Russian public. I assume this means he could win an actual election, without attracting international or even domestic condemnation for voting fraud. So, why would members of his party, or Putin himself, still engage in something that seems unnecessary and risky?

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    @bytebuster - That doesn't seem to answer it. The answers to that question address why an dictator might choose to cheat rather than simply fake a number. I'm asking why a popular dictator would do either of those, rather than simply run legitimately and win. – Obie 2.0 Jul 18 '18 at 8:19
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    Is it sure that Putin did cheat in elections, rather than some governors in far-out provinces trying to achieve unrealistically good results in an attempt to get Putin's favor or prove they are competent stewards? IIRC, I read an article where it was supposed that it was not the Kremlin itself faking results, but governors in outer regions of Russia. Gonna see if I find it. – Thern Jul 18 '18 at 8:22
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    I challenge your premise. According to international observers, the elections (the voting itself) was, if not crystal clear, cleaner than in past elections. The problem was not the voting itself, but the fact that many oppositors to Putin were barred from participating in the elections altogether. In other words: clean elections without no real choice. ft.com/content/e37624f4-2b95-11e8-9b4b-bc4b9f08f381 – Rekesoft Jul 18 '18 at 10:53
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    A possible reason might be to demoralize the opposition by demonstrating an ability to get away with cheating. If you lose a soccer game by a score of 4-2, you might want to come back after more practice and replacing a few players. If you lose 8-0 because the refs favored your opponent and you know the same refs will be used next time, why even bother trying again? The same applies to Putin's opponents. If they lose by 10% of the vote, they might think they can win next time by persuading 6% of the voters to change their mind. By cheating openly, Putin deprives them of that hope. – Readin Jul 26 '18 at 2:32
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Vladimir Putin is acting as a very strong "nationalistic" leader in Russia. He, for example, doesn't want to acknowledge having any real opposition, he never used to even say the name "Alexej Navaľnyj", but instead always used vague and general terms as "opposition, disruptive forces..."

The highest possible election results are important for him to pose as the most popular and loved leader in Russia without basically any competition. In last presidential elections in Russia, the government made huge incentives in order for people to vote, mostly because of popular opposition politician "Alexej Navaľnyj", who after being criminally charged was unable to be an official political candidate against Putin. He then called his supporters to not go to vote, in order to boycott the election.

Putin doesn't want to look in any way weakened and make any feelings both inside and outside of Russia that he may be losing popularity at home, that is the main reason of any potential cheating from his side in the Russian election.

The words of Vladimir Milov, main economics adviser to Navaľnyj:

“We want to tear Putin down from his pedestal,” Vladimir Milov, an economic adviser and one of Navalny’s allies, said in an interview. “Putin will get a formal victory, but we want to make it a pyrrhic victory. We want to use the election to show that he doesn’t have as much support as he claims.”

Adding to post as commented, one of the goals in terms of exact election outcome for Vladimir Putin was "70/70", which means to have at least 70% turnout and to gain 70% votes, which should make sure he still doesn't have any real opposition and isn't losing much popularity as stated here:

Contrast that to prospects for Vladimir Putin, who will secure a new term in Russia's election on Sunday and whose only real concern is making sure a convincing number of voters turn out. His advisers have a goal of 70/70 - 70 percent turnout with 70 percent of votes for Putin - a threshold they believe will keep potential challengers at bay and shore up his position as Russia's only viable leader for another six years.

From The Guardian Article (article)

The opposition pointed to video evidence of voter irregularities at a number of polling stations across Russia. They included ballot stuffing and attacks on some vote observers, as well as reports of ballots being cast by “dead souls”, people who have died but remain on the electoral rolls. In one video shared online from the Siberian region of Yakutia, voters patiently queued behind a man shoving ballots into the ballot box.

The Kremlin had pushed a broad get-out-the-vote campaign before the elections, apparently concerned that Putin’s popularity might not be enough to get voters to the polls. Incentives included raffles for prizes including iPhone Xs and cars.

From Bloomberg article(article)

The election was fake because Putin's most vocal and most politically talented rival, Alexei Navalny, wasn't allowed to run because of a trumped-up criminal conviction. It was fake because the "opposing candidates" were hand-picked by the Kremlin and because the majority of Russian media are under direct or indirect Kremlin control. It was also fake because of a fierce administrative pressure on Russia's millions of government-dependent voters -- public servants, students, workers at state-controlled enterprises -- to turn out, and because at many polling stations, especially those where the fragile Russian opposition had no observers, ballot boxes were stuffed.

There are, however, fewer reasons this time around than in several previous elections to describe the outcome as fake, too. Sergei Shpilkin, a physicist and electoral statistician who convincingly demonstrated irregularities in previous vote outcomes, noted that the vote falsification level was "likely at a record low" and close to what he'd seen back in 2004, during Putin's second, conflict-free election. According to Shpilkin, up to 8 million votes may have been added to the actual count.

I recommend reading these interesting articles, which are related to your question :

Bloomberg

Reuters

The Guardian

  • Your main claim in actually answering the question (what Putin actually wants: no [real] opposition) isn't directly supported. Putin is actually claiming the opposite: unian.info/politics/… Of course it looks like double-speak, but you're only letting others speak for him in your answer, so it's not a very balanced one. – Fizz Jul 18 '18 at 15:47
  • @Fizz - It's worth including that, but as you say it's likely untrue. – Obie 2.0 Jul 18 '18 at 17:25
  • @Fizz Well, the question was why is he cheating when he has safe win basically. And the main point I wanted to make Is that he wanted to remain seen strong, "without" real opposition or discontent in Russia... Of course, he is not going to tell the truth himself in order to quote him... And I certainly didn't meant to say that he wants to get rid of any opposition so he would be the only candidate left. – Frank Labry Jul 18 '18 at 17:31
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President Putin has widespread support, it is true. But inside "United Russia" there is a libertarian wing, which support more western-oriented politic, not russia-oriented, like Putin. And it is a benefit for them - if they can somehow discreditate Putin. Still cannot find source - some time passed. But there was a big article about it - the most of elections discreditations were from regions controlled by these west-way-oriented politics.

According to most of presented comments:

  • still very "dirty" elections. Old comments. Now there is Ella Pamfilova in elections watching. Former heuman-right-opposition leader is watching for elections. Cameras on every election point with live translations over the internet. Still dirty you say? Maybe you should open a dictionary and watch the meaning of the word "dirty".
  • "opposition leaders are in jails!" How many? Navalny? Can you continue the list of big opposition leaders? And about Navalny - do you see great protests? Do you see millions of people? His so-called "march of millions" can be also called "marche of trillions". or anything else, because it doen't have such amounts of people

And take a look on most-libertarian russian opposition. Many of them claims, that Russia should withdraw from everywhere, and stay on knees in front of the west. How many support from people do some US politic will have, if all of it political program contains of claims that "US should be silent and stop all geopolitical actions"? I think that no one can support such opposition. In fact, Putin just doesn't have concurents.

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    "How many support from people do some US politic will have, if all of it political program contains of claims that "US should be silent and stop all geopolitical actions"?" Trump, in fact, was riding on exactly this ticket. Stop being the world police, stop supporting the NATO, stop meddling in Syria, focus at problems at home. In many European countries, most notably Germany, this is a large majority position from left to right. Not every voter is a belligerent nationalist craving for geopolitical influence. – Thern Jul 18 '18 at 13:02
  • Trump supports army budget expanding. And Trump claims that not "lets get off this country". He wants, in his special way, to make US stronger, not weaker like russian opposition – user2501323 Jul 18 '18 at 13:13
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    Are we talking about popular positions or about the question if politicians stand by their word? Also, Iran is special, there is a deep-seated hate between US and Iranian nationalists to the point that they would do anything to damage the other side just because they can. This is revenge, not geopolitics. The US tries to leave Syria, which benefits Iran, so geopolitically, they leave the playing field. Moreover, the phrase "opposition wants to weaken Russia" is just the meaningless right-wing propaganda that sees treason in anything from the center or the left. I don't give much about this. – Thern Jul 18 '18 at 13:20
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    The downvotes and negative comments on this answer might be partially because it is written in a very polemic style. Answers which try to use neutral speech and do not verbally attack those who disagree usually fare much better on this website. Also, please try to find some sources. "Still cannot find source - some time passed. But there was a big article about it" does not give the impression that the information in this answer is trustworthy. – Philipp Jul 18 '18 at 13:22
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    Oh, and what I almost overlooked while reading this answer: It does not even answer the question why Putin / United Russia would (or would not) commit election fraud. This is a question&answer site, not a discussion forum. Answers should answer the question which was asked, nothing less and nothing more. – Philipp Jul 18 '18 at 13:26

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