Russia goes to the polls this weekend as Vladimir Putin is certain to win another six year term as the nation's President.

The 71-year-old has been in power since 2000 and faces no real opposition as he seeks to maintain his grip on the Kremlin.

Despite the outcome being a foregone conclusion though the eyes of the world will be on Russia, with the outcome likely to have ripple effects for Ukraine and beyond.

Here's everything you need to know about the election.

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The process

The Presidential election determines who will be the Russian head of state for the next six years.

To be eligible to stand a candidate must be at least 35, have been resident in Russia for at least 25 years and must not have a foreign citizenship or residence permit.

There are also various criminal convictions which bar prospective candidates from standing.

The late Alexei Navalny was barred from standing against Mr Putin in 2018 due to a conviction for fraud.

Due to the vast size of Russia, the world's biggest country, the elections are held over three days. Polls opened at 8am local time in Kamchatka Peninsula, on the Pacific Ocean, on Friday and will close at 8pm local time in Kaliningrad on Sunday.

The Herald: Russian servicemen enter a polling station during a presidential election in St. Petersburg, Russia, Friday, March 15, 2024Russian servicemen enter a polling station during a presidential election in St. Petersburg, Russia, Friday, March 15, 2024 (Image: AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

The President is directly elected by popular vote. If a candidate receives over 50% of the vote in the first round they are duly elected, if no candidate reaches that threshold a run-off election is held three weeks later.

Mr Putin is expected to win comfortably in the first round, and there has only been one run-off election since the collapse of the USSR.

In 1996 Boris Yeltsin required a second round to defeat the Communist challenger Gennady Zyuganov, with allegations of American interference, violation of campaign laws and anti-communist media bias.

The candidates

There is no real doubt that Mr Putin will be re-elected, and comfortably so.

The 71-year-old has been in power since 2000, though he spent four years as Prime Minister due to a two-term limit in the Russian constitution which has since been abolished.

The Herald: Vladimir Putin

Mr Putin is technically running as an independent but has been endorsed by United Russia, the largest party in the Duma and the President's former party.

The notional opposition in the Duma is the Communist Party, who are running 75-year-old Nikolay Kharitonov.

Mr Kharitonov was not a popular choice for many within the communist movement and has said he will not criticise Mr Putin.

Boris Nadezhdin of the centre-right Civic Initiative party has been barred from standing after alleged irregularities in the 100,000 signatures needed to stand.

Tthe ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia is running Leonid Slutsky following the death in 2022 of its founder Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

Mr Zhirinovsky advocated for a monarchist 'supreme ruler' of Russia and pledged to "drive into the Kremlin and shoot" his opponents if elected in 2018.

Mr Slutsky has been accused of multiple incidents of sexual harassment.

The fourth candidate is Vladislav Davankov of the New People party, who has also pledged not to criticise Mr Putin but criticised state censorship and called for "peace and negotiations" in the war in Ukraine.

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The outcome

Mr Putin is certain to win the election easily, with no credible opposition.

Opinion polling has him at between 57% and 74%, with none of his three rivals even able to get into double figures.

The incumbent has been accused of repressing - or even murdering - opposition and running an autocratic regime, but remains genuinely popular with the electorate.

United Russia, his former party, has 324 of the 450 seats in the Duma, equivalent to 72%, following the most recent election in 2021.

For reference, when Leonid Brezhnev was re-elected as leader of the Soviet Union in 1974, the electorate could vote only for the Communist Party or independent candidates and the CPSU took 73% of the seats.

It has been alleged that residents in the occupied Ukrainian regions of Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk have been coerced into voting in the election.

While there is no doubt that Mr Putin will win, he is likely seeking a high turnout both in Russia and in Russian-occupied land in Ukraine to legitimise his rule on the world stage.

His armies are making gains in Eastern Ukraine - albeit slowly - having repelled a Ukrainian counter-offensive last year, and with future funding from NATO countries in doubt, the President will see his re-election as further incentive for the Western world to come to a settlement.