Russian TV personality Ksenia Sobchak arrives for a trial of Russian theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov - REUTERS Russian TV personality Ksenia Sobchak arrives for a trial of Russian theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov - REUTERS

Kremlin bid by Russia 'It Girl' turns vote into a 'show'

By: AFP
Thu, Oct. 19, 2017
MOSCOW– 19 October 2017: The entry of Russian socialite and TV host Ksenia Sobchak into next year's presidential election is aimed at rekindling public interest in a dull ballot widely expected to extend Vladimir Putin's rule, media said Thursday.

Sobchak's Kremlin's bid is designed to inject an element of glamour and razzmatazz into a predictable campaign and create the semblance of competitive elections, media said.

"Ksenia Sobchak will take part in a show called 'The Presidential Election'," blared the banner headline of the mass-circulation Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper, referring to her background as former host of a reality TV show.

"Circuses for the masses are guaranteed -- although the people would rather have bread."

A liberal journalist, Sobchak, 35, announced on Wednesday she was planning on standing as an independent candidate for president in the March 2018 elections.

She is the daughter of the late Saint Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak, who mentored Putin.

Observers and media said such a move would not be possible without the Kremlin's blessing.

Although Putin has not yet announced his candidacy, the 65-year-old is widely expected to seek another six-year term in March to extend his rule to 2024.

With Sobchak's candidacy, the Kremlin was seeking to boost turnout and rekindle interest in an election whose outcome is all but guaranteed, media said.

Citing analysts, media said Sobchak's candidacy is seen as a political spoiler, designed to create the semblance of a competitive election and to offer a token candidate to opposition voters who'd rather vote for Putin's top critic Alexei Navalny.

- 'Counterbalance to Navalny' -

Sobchak has in recent years sought to refashion herself as a liberal political journalist, but gained fame by presenting a popular reality show called Dom-2 (House-2) where contestants have to form romantic relationships.

"Ksenia Sobchak goes from Dom-2 to the presidential race," said the headline of the Komsomolskaya Pravda, while the RBK business daily caustically called her an "opponent from Dom-2."

Navalny, Putin's top critic, has also announced his intention to run in the election and over the past months has travelled around the country seeking to rally supporters.

But electoral officials have said the 41-year-old is not eligible to put his name on the ballot because he is serving a suspended sentence for fraud.

Sobchak's announcement is an "obvious counterbalance to Navalny's campaign," the RBK daily said, citing Nikolai Mironov, head of the Centre for Economic and Political Reforms.

Many Russians derided Sobchak's move online but some said they would vote for her in the absence of real choice.

A poll published last month by the independence Levada centre found that just 0.4 percent of Russians believed she could stand for president next year.
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