Official presidential candidates registration kicks off in Russia

Russia's Central Election Commission has started official registration of the candidates for next year's presidential election.

The first two contenders for the driving seat of Russia's future have been registered by the Central Election Commission. Both men are leaders of parties that have been elected into parliament – which frees them of the necessity to gather 2 million supporting signatures.

Four more men were awaiting the outcome of their registration, when one decided to step out. Once favourite of president Yeltsin and one of the leaders of the Union of Right Forces (SPS), Boris Nemtsov, has withdrawn his candidacy.

Questions of 'who will bite the dust next' are already being asked but for now three men remain – First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, already dubbed 'the successor' by the media, as he has presidential backing, former prime minister turned opposition leader Mikhail Kasyanov and the outsider of the race, Democratic Party leader Andrey Bogdanov.

Their participation in the March 2008 election remains to be decided.

Meanwhile, the two official candidates, the Liberal Democratic party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and the Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov, may already flex their political muscles.