Moscow: Seven candidates are lined up against Vladimir Putin in a Russian presidential election in March that he is all, but guaranteed to win, extending his Kremlin term to 2024 with a fourth term in office.
His competitors include a former reality TV star and a director of a fruit farm, but Putin’s primary political opponent Alexei Navalny, will be absent from the ballot.
Alexei Navalny, a charismatic anti-corruption blogger turned Opposition politician who has organised several large anti-Kremlin protests, has been barred from running in the March election.
Russia’s electoral commission rejected his candidacy application because of a criminal conviction which Navalny says is politically motivated.
The 41-year-old is widely regarded as Vladimir Putin’s principal opponent and has a loyal support base. Navalny has called for a boycott of the vote in protest against his candidacy being banned.
Nicknamed the “strawberry king”, 57-year-old Pavel Grudinin is the Communist Party’s surprise candidate.
Polls show seven per cent of Russians are ready to put him in the Kremlin. He has been vilified in the pro-Kremlin press for his alleged wealth and foreign bank accounts. Ksenia Sobchak surprised all in October by declaring herself a candidate in the vote with the slogans “against them all”, and “none of the above”. A former reality TV star, Sobchak took part in Russia’s 2012 anti-Putin protests before becoming a presenter on the independent TV Dozhd channel.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky is a Russian presidential election regular. The March vote will be the 71 year-old’s sixth presidential race. He is often described as a clown in Russian political circles.
Veteran liberal politician Grigory Yavlinsky is running for the Russian presidency for the third time. Yavlinsky gained less than 10 per cent of the vote in the 1996 and 2000 elections.
A representative of the Russian business community, Boris Titov announced his candidacy in the election without any illusion about the result.
Speaking in Crimea on a campaign trip in February, Titov admitted that “nobody has any doubt who will win the election” and said the main aim of the vote is to “convince the authorities, and Putin, to reform the economy.”
A 59 year-old leader of the nationalist People’s Union party, Sergei Baburin, is unknown and rarely mentioned in the media....