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23 Feb, 2012 06:04

Presidential race in Russia: Final stage nears

Ten days ahead of Russia’s presidential election, the population’s political activity is reaching levels hitherto unseen. Tens of thousands have rallied in Moscow in support of their preferred candidates.

Four separate rallies warmed up the snow-covered Russian capital on Thursday. February 23 is a national holiday in Russia (Defenders of the Motherland Day) so the public really has time to participate in political events of choice.The biggest has taken place at one of the grounds of the huge Luzhniki Sports Stadium in support of presidential candidate Vladimir Putin.130,000 participants arrived to Luzhniki to take part in the rally.Vladimir Putin delivered a speech in front of his supporters.The organizers of this event planned to hold it in front of the Kremlin on Manege Square, but realized in time that the last rally in Putin’s support gathered over 130,000 people and this one might exceed this number. Thus the event was moved to a larger space to avoid disrupting the center of Moscow.The communists’ rally in support of candidate Gennady Zyuganov was held in central Moscow on Theater Square and gathered around 2,000, although the organizers insist there were 10,000 people there.Another rally was in support of the Lib-Dems’ self-perpetuating candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the veteran firebrand politician. This rally gathered 1,500 voters. The fourth rally protesting against all of the abovementioned candidates gathered some 1,000 demonstrators. This group does not support any of the candidates whose names will be on the ballot paper on March 4. The option to vote “against all” is no longer available on Russian ballots.The presidential race has hit full throttle close to the election date. Parties and candidates are organizing rallies of all kinds.Last Saturday a motor rally in support of candidate Putin practically made a closed loop around Moscow’s center. The very next day another motor rally against Putin was held in the very same place.The upcoming weekend will see yet more demonstrations of the groups who are in opposition to the current government and who declare they want to see free and fair elections in Russia.