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Duma faction leaders officially start presidential race

December 28, 2011, 14:44 UTC+3

Apparently, collecting signatures will not be an easy task because of the long New Year holidays

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MOSCOW, December 28 (Itar-Tass) — The leaders of all the four factions at the State Duma lower house of the Russian parliament on Wednesday officially entered the presidential race. After registration as presidential hopefuls, they secured a place for their names in the ballot papers to be cast at the March 4, 2012 polls.

The composition of the contenders is quite traditional. On Wednesday, the Central Election Commission registered irreplaceable leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) Vladimir Zhirinovsky who has participated in four presidential campaigns. He came third or fifth at the presidential election in the past.

Also on Wednesday, the CEC registered Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, who has run for president three times and traditionally came second. His biggest success was in 1996, when he netted 40.31 percent of votes as Boris Yeltsin's rival. Both Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky did not run in the 2004 polls, when Vladimir Putin was seeking a second term in office, and prefer to nominate so-called "technical candidates."

However, for Sergei Mironov, a Just Russia leader, the 2004 election was the only test of strength. At that time, he was not a Just Russia leader, because his Party was only established two years later.

Mironov was supported by 0.76 percent of voters.

At present, buoyed by success of a Just Russia, Mironov states he is taking part in the election in order "to not merely participate but win" and that he is hoping for run-off election. He admitted that he had played the role of "technical candidate" at the 2004 polls of his own accord.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, leader of United Russia was registered as a presidential candidate on December 20. It will be the third presidential election for Putin. In 2000, and 2004, he won the polls in the first round.

Grigory Yavlinsky, a Yabloko Party founder, has to present at the Central Election Commission at least two million signatures as a nominee of the party not represented in parliament, in order to secure registration.

The same applies to five self-nominees including tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov and Irkutsk region governor Dmitry Mezentsev. Their number might increase yet following the ruling by the Supreme Court. On November 26, it overturned the CEC's refusal to register the support group of former editor-in-chief of the Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper Boris Mironov.

The CEC was to consider the issue within the next few days and either comply with the Supreme Court's ruling or appeal against it.

Apparently, collecting signatures will not be an easy task because of the long New Year holidays, and may continue until the end of the registration stage at 18:00, Moscow time, on January 18.

Some experts estimate that one such signature would cost around five U.S. dollars. It includes the cost of forms and the fees for signature collectors and notary services. In other words, collecting the whole body of signatures might be worth ten million dollars, according to unofficial estimates.

As election practice shows, not a single self-nominate has ever been able to produce the necessary amount of valid signatures. As a rule, invalid signatures were largely the main reason behind the refusal of election commission to register a candidate. There were even scandals when police detained whole associations engaged in "drawing" signatures for remuneration.

This time, signature collection was somewhat overshadowed by President Dmitry Medvedev's initiative to cut the number of signatures for presidential hopefuls among self-nominees to 300,000, i.e. by seven times, and to 100,000 for the parties not represented in parliament. But this norm can only be applied to the presidential campaign in six years from now.

The present-day self-nominees therefore can be likened to buyers who paid through the nose just a day before sale.

The Central Election Commission is facing titanic work to check the signature lists. CEC Secretary Nikolai Konkin said the law envisions selective checks of 20 percent of signatures which traditionally involve passport service officials, representatives of the migration service and signature experts.

Preliminary estimates put the number of signatures to be checked at 2.4 million. In case Boris Mironov joins the election campaign, the figure will soar to 2.8 million.

The CEC has ten days to check the signature lists. In late January, the country will learn the name of all the contenders. The president will be elected for a term of six years for the first time on March 4, 2012.


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