The one thing that may concern Vladimir Putin in Russian election battle

Vladimir Putin has ruled in Russia as president and briefly prime minister since 2000. Credit: PA

Covering the Russian elections is a bit like going to watch the film Titanic. You know what the ending is going to be before the opening credits roll.

No wonder Vladimir Putin seemed so nonplussed as he turned up to vote.

This isn’t really an election, it’s a re-election and no-one here is even bothering to pretend otherwise. They've even put up the stage outside the Kremlin for the victory party.

This morning I spoke to one of the other candidates, Ksenia Sobchak, as she went to vote. Asked about her chances, she replied: "I'm not going to be president this time. There’s only one person who is always president in our country."

Vladimir Putin's so-called rivals say the contest is already decided. Credit: Emma Murphy

But though no one in the Kremlin will be biting their nails or wondering whether to book the removal firm there is one thing which will concern them and that is turnout.

Anything less than the 65% seen in 2012 would be concerning. Alexei Navalny, the opposition leader who has been banned from standing, has called for people to boycott the vote entirely. If he can’t topple the leader he can at least try to weaken the base upon which his power stands.

Vladimir Putin's opposition urged voters to abstain. Credit: Emma Murphy

In reality though it won’t put a huge dent in Putin’s position. A diplomatic crisis, stagnant economy and serious poverty haven’t touched him so a few abstentions are unlikely to either.

The majority of those who vote will be ticking the box next to the president’s name, playing their part in what really is just a box ticking exercise.