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28 Jan, 2008 09:17

Russia invites foreign observers for Presidential poll

Russia's Election Commission has begun sending out invitations to international observers for the March 2 presidential poll. About 400 foreign monitors will be asked to take part. The election will be contested by four candidates, excluding ex-Premier Mi

He has been barred because of irregularities with his application.

Kasyanov, an opposition candidate, filed an appeal after his application to be on the ballot was turned down.  But election officials rejected the appeal, saying 13 per cent of the two million signatures on his application were invalid.

Kasyanov didn’t turn up to hear the verdict. Instead he accused the Kremlin of turning the March 2 ballot into a farce.

“Those in power got scared of an open political contest. The hopes of millions of Russian people that there will be a free and fair election have been dashed,” Kasyanov said.

Election officials say the former PM and his team failed because of their own negligence. Elvira Ermakova of Central Election Commission was scathing in her criticism.

“It’s this incomprehensible, and I’m not afraid to say appalling, attitude towards collecting the signatures that lead to denying his registration,” Ermakova said.

A former Kremlin insider turned staunch critic of Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Kasyanov stood no chance getting elected. Recent polls show he had less than one per cent support. Some political watchers say the registration scandal is a publicity stunt.

Moreover, the Effective Policy Foundation director Gleb Pavlovsky believes Mikhail Kasyanov could not have collected two million signatures.

“Two million signatures – that is more than two per cent of the voters. He doesn't have that kind of support. He could not have collected those signatures. That means he simply counted on a political decision – he probably thought the Kremlin would register him if it wanted to. Why then collect the signatures? If the Kremlin decided not to register him, then he could say he had the required signatures,” Pavlovsky said.

Four runners will contest the election. They are Dmitry Medvedev from the United Russia party, who has the support of President Putin. Vladimir Zhirinovsky is the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party. Gennady Zyuganov is leader of the Communist Party.   Andrey Bogdanov is the sole independent in the race.
The ruling United Russia party hopes its candidate, Dmitry Medvedev, will get more than 60 per cent of the vote.

Meawhile, according to the Head of the Russian Election Commission Vladimir Churov, there still is a way for Mikhail Kasyanov to re-enter the Presidential race.

The former prime minister could challenge the decision of the Election Commission, and appeal to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Election authorities are due to begin allocating free TV and radio time for the campaigns.

The Central Election Commission Chairman, Vladimir Churov, says there won't be any limitations put on foreign observers so long as they act within Russian laws.

“They are free to take part in the monitoring in regions as well as in military units, and prisons. We don't choose the international observers who come to Russia. These missions are formed by the invited party. Some of these missions try to select observers who are notorious for their dislike of the Russian state. But let it be on their conscience. As for us, we will let our people know who will come to Russia, so we can be objective about their assessments,” he said.