Russian President Vladimir Putin faces seven challengers as voters go to the polls Sunday, but he is expected to easily win a fourth term for another six years in office. Advance polling suggests Putin boasts about 70 percent support, though critics say Russian elections are a pseudo-democratic exercise with a predetermined outcome.
"I voted for Putin," said Ust-Djeguta resident Lyubov Kachan, a teacher, in an interview with Reuters. "If anything is not going our way right now, that's thanks to the world which treats us so negatively, while he is trying to stand up to that."
Apathetic voters are under increased pressure to turn out this year, with some employers asking workers to provide proof that they voted. The mayor of the city of Yekaterinburg told The Associated Press officials "received orders 'from higher up' to make sure the presidential vote turnout is over 60 percent." Bonnie Kristian
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won a resounding victory in Sunday's snap election. His Liberal Democratic Party-led (LDP) coalition is set to retain its two-thirds supermajority in Japan's lower house of Parliament, and Abe is likely to secure a record-setting third term next fall.
With a fresh mandate from voters, Abe is expected to push for changes to Japan's "pacifist" constitution, in which Article 9, drafted by the United States government in the wake of World War II, prohibits the maintenance of armed forces. In practice, the clause has served as a mandate for a strictly defensive military; Abe wants to move toward a more interventionist pose.
Alabama voters will cast ballots on Tuesday in Republican and Democratic primaries to pick their nominees for a Dec. 12 special election to replace Jeff Sessions, who gave up his Senate seat to become President Trump's attorney general. The Republican fight is getting all the attention, since Alabama is reliably Republican and hasn't had a Democrat in the Senate in 20 years. Trump has endorsed the incumbent, Sen. Luther Strange (R), in a series of tweets, including one Tuesday morning, and a robocall on Monday, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has contributed millions of dollars in ads for Strange through a super PAC.
Still, Strange is in a tough fight for second place with Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Al.), who is running as the anti-McConnell, pro-Trump candidate. The consistent frontrunner is Roy Moore, the former Alabama chief justice who gained fame as the "10 Commandments judge" for refusing to remove a 10 Commandments monument from the state courthouse despite a federal order, and then for ordering probate judges to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling establishing the right to same-sex marriage — both of which got him removed from the bench. He is promising this time to "drain the swamp." The top two vote-getters will face off on Sept. 26.
There are seven candidates on the Democratic side, but the two expected to make the runoff (or win outright) are former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, endorsed by former Vice President Joe Biden and favored by local Democratic Party leaders, and business executive and Navy veteran Robert Kennedy Jr., who, like Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), is not related to the famous Kennedy political dynasty. Peter Weber
Americans in Georgia's 6th district and South Carolina's 5th district go to the polls on Tuesday to vote in concurrent special elections in traditionally Republican strongholds. "Stock up on coffee. Poised to be a very late night," a Republican involved in the tight Georgia race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel told Politico Playbook. "This race is truly too close to call — best guess is that Ossoff gets between 48-51 percent," a Democrat said.
The results will also test President Trump, who has enthusiastically shared his support for Handel. A defeat, though, could "rattle Senate Republicans as they try to jump-start legislation to overhaul the nation's health-care law by the end of this month," The Washington Post writes.
KAREN HANDEL FOR CONGRESS. She will fight for lower taxes, great healthcare strong security-a hard worker who will never give up! VOTE TODAY
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 20, 2017
"The Georgia special election contains an important lesson," Paul Waldman explains at The Week. "It's an exaggerated version of something we should expect and even embrace for 2018 and 2020: the nationalized local election."
The South Carolina race is less of a nail-biter, with the Republican candidate, Ralph Norman, expected to defeat Democrat Archie Parnell. But by how much "can tell us how sour the national environment is for Republicans," FiveThirtyEight writes. Jeva Lange
New French President Emmanuel Macron is on track to consolidate his power in the National Assembly elections, which will be completed after a second round of voting Sunday. Macron's year-old En Marche! movement is expected to win as many as 470 of 577 seats in France's lower house of Parliament, an even more remarkable majority than the 400 seats the president's party was initially predicted to take.
This means heavy losses for the right-wing Republicans and the Socialists, previously the heavy hitters of French politics. "What is extraordinary is the speed with which it's happened," Sudhir Hazareesingh, an Oxford University professor of French politics, told The Washington Post. "What's also extraordinary is that both traditional parties are being swept away."
Results will be in around 1 p.m. Eastern time. Bonnie Kristian
Puerto Ricans vote Sunday on whether their island, currently a U.S. territory, should become the 51st American state. The referendum is not binding; should the vote for statehood win, it would still require approval from Congress and President Trump to move forward.
The vote takes place on the 100th anniversary of Puerto Ricans obtaining U.S. citizenship, and along with statehood and maintaining the status quo, the ballot also offers voters a chance to endorse national independence. Past votes have failed to produce a clear majority for any one option.
Puerto Rico is suffering a decade-long economic depression which many attribute to its territorial status and which some believe makes statehood less likely. "Statehood hasn't come in the past 120 years," said Miriam Gonzalez of San Juan. "Why would Donald Trump want to make this bankrupt island a state now? It will be another 120 years before that happens." Bonnie Kristian
Following the election of Republican Greg Gianforte to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's vacated House seat in Montana on Thursday night, Democrats might be feeling pessimistic after a series of close, but ultimately unsuccessful, special elections. Yet "these are tangible signs of progress for Democrats and indicators that the House could be in play in 2018," Axios writes. "Princeton electoral politics statistician Sam Wang, citing a 12-point GOP underperformance in the Kansas race, and a 7-point underperformance in Georgia [which will have a runoff between the Democrat and the Republican candidates in June], emails Axios that 'even a 5-point underperformance in November 2018 would be enough to put House control within reach for Democrats.'"
— Axios (@axios) May 26, 2017
As it turns out, this could even be a case of history repeating itself. A "similar situation" occurred in 2009 "when three blue-state seats opened up following Obama's win," Axios writes. "The GOP gained ground in each of those special elections (without winning), foreshadowing the 2010 midterms when Republicans picked up 63 seats and took control of the House."
The assumption that Montana is an impenetrable Republican stronghold has held Democrats back from heavy spending on their candidate in the state, the folk-singing populist Rob Quist. "Our polling indicates that Donald Trump is still very popular here. It's not like the [special election] races in Georgia or Kansas, where Trump only won by 1 point or where [Kansas] Gov. [Sam] Brownback has popularity problems," Brock Lowrance, the campaign manager for Republican nominee, Greg Gianforte, told Politico in late April. "There's nothing to indicate that the winds have shifted here in the last six months."
And yet in recent weeks, Quist has narrowed Gianforte's lead to just single digits. Considering Gianforte's apparent assault on a reporter Wednesday night, Democrats might now be kicking themselves for not spending more in a state that is turning out to be far more competitive than anyone expected:
The contest in Montana, to fill the seat vacated by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, has drawn national attention, with both sides together pouring over $10 million into television and radio ads. But this spending in Montana's relatively cheap media markets happened almost in spite of the national Democratic Party, which has been skeptical about Mr. Quist's prospects. Democrats only began helping their nominee here reluctantly, after weeks in which Republicans hammered Mr. Quist on TV with little response. Republicans outspent Democrats more than two-to-one on television and radio, according to media buyers in both parties. [The New York Times]
Additionally, "Montana has a reputation for being a state surprisingly amenable to Democrats in a region that's not known for it," Paul Blest writes at The Week. "While a Democrat hasn't held the lone congressional seat since 1997, a Democrat has held the governor's mansion since 2005 and one of the state's two senators, Jon Tester, is a two-term Democrat."
The Democrats did put out an eleventh-hour ad Thursday featuring audio of Gianforte's alleged assault. But it could still be too little, too late: "The overall race has been an excellent representation of authentic economic populism against today's Republican Party, with its brutal domestic agenda and Government Sachs Cabinet," Ryan Cooper writes at The Week. "Whether or not Quist can eke out a victory is an important test case for whether economic populism can win in red states." Jeva Lange