RUSSIA/FILE: Key presidential candidates vie for votes in the run-up to Russia's presidential elections,...
- Title: RUSSIA/FILE: Key presidential candidates vie for votes in the run-up to Russia's presidential elections, with the biggest threats to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin coming from Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov and billionaire candidate Mikhail Prokhorov
- Date: 1st March 2012
- Summary: MOSCOW, RUSSIA (RECENT) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) PRIME MINISTER VLADIMIR PUTIN, SAYING: "Yes, we will win. But it's not enough for us to win these elections. We need to look further. We need to win and to overcome a huge number of problems that, strictly speaking, are everywhere else as well. We have plenty of them." PUTIN SUPPORTERS CHEERING AT RALLY PUTIN CAMPAIGN SIGN ON STREET READING 'A GREAT COUNTRY NEEDS A STRONG LEADER'
- Reuters ID: LVACS68ONF5TR49V19X1S5XYKJLJ
- Location: Russian Federation
- Country: Russia
- Duration: 00:00:28
- Topics: Politics
- Story Text: A total of five candidates are vying for votes in Russia's upcoming presidential election, but many voters say this is still an election between Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and four candidates who present no real choice for voters.
Thousands of people gathered in Moscow under Russian flags, balloons and banners at a recent rally to to back Vladimir Putin's bid to return to the presidency. Russian media reported 130,000 people participated in the rally in the sports stadium, whom the prime minister addressed with words of confidence.
"Yes, we will win. But it's not enough for us to win these elections. We need to look further. We need to win and to overcome a huge number of problems that, strictly speaking, are everywhere else as well. We have plenty of them," Putin said.
Recent polls have suggested that Putin will win upcoming elections with 63-66 percent of the vote, far ahead of his closest rival, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, who will win 15 percent of the vote.
Zyuganov's Communist party has enjoyed a surge of popularity, doubling its vote to about 20 percent in Russia's recent parliamentary elections. The memories of repression in the Soviet Union, the labour camps and the regimentation are still fresh for many people but still, some voters intend to cast their ballots for the present-day Communists as a protest vote against Putin's United Russia party.
"Mr. Putin cannot win under any circumstances. In December when we came to the parliamentary elections we beat United Russia from Vladivostok to Pskov and Kaliningrad," Zyuganov told supporters at a recent rally in Moscow.
Another candidate, who may present a strong challenge among liberal and young, urban voters is Mikhail Prokhorov - Russia's third richest man and owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team.
In a career turn that would have seemed unthinkable for any of Russia's billionaire tycoons just a year or so ago, Prokhorov has said he hopes to beat Putin but has made clear he views the vote as a springboard to a lasting political role.
Prokhorov has found a following among young urban voters, many of whom are fed up with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has been in power for the past 12 years. Among other projects Prokhorov is co-owner of a hybrid car plant promoted as environmentally friendly.
Well-known TV journalist and commentator Vladimir Pozner has said Prokhorov could be an up and coming political figure.
"I think there are new people around the corner there, and the gentleman I talked about, Prokhorov, might well be one of them. I think he really has a future. He's an intelligent man. He wants to prove that he can be not only an extremely successful businessman, but an extremely successful politician. He wants to prove that he knows how to run a country, and I think he has a chance," Pozner told Reuters.
"We need to create a completely new party which would be modern, and unlike any other existing parties. It should be built on the basis of crowd-sourcing where leaders of different directions choose a collective understanding, in other words, our citizens. In this way the strongest public opinion leaders will end up in the party. This is the type of party I'm planning to create after the elections," Prokhorov said.
Also in the running is the colourful and somewhat eccentric leader of the nationalist LDPR party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who helped found his party in 1990. A recent poll suggested that Zhirinovsky would take third place in Russia's upcoming elections with around nine percent of the vote.
While Putin may remain the frontrunner candidate, declining popularity and big street protests have exposed the dissatisfaction with which many Russians view his plan to return to the Kremlin.
Expected to come in last in the upcoming elections, is the leader of 'A Just Russia' party, Sergei Mironov with 8.7 percent of the vote.
In a recent speech to the Russian parliament Mironov welcomed the growing political consciousness of Russian voters.
"For the first time in the history of the Russian Federation, active street participants are taking part in the presidential campaign. People are taking to the streets to tell the truth, to say what earlier was only possible to say in the kitchen," Mironov said.
The opposition protests began after allegations of fraud in a parliamentary election won by Putin's party on December 4. The Kremlin has offered token electoral reforms but not met any of the protesters' main demands, including a rerun of the election.
More than one third of Russians supported street protests against vote stuffing though only 13 percent were willing to take part in such rallies. Just under one fifth said they supported the slogans "Russia without Putin" or "Putin should go."
A political analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Centre, however, said that the protesters do not represent a significant political force.
"While the people got out and made their discontent and disagreement known, their demands, this does not make them a political force. They are not a political force. They themselves say this; they themselves don't want politics. This is an ethical, a moral movement, it's a movement for honesty, for fairness. It's not at all a movement for 'our candidate to win the elections.' They don't have a candidate and they don't want one," Moscow Carnegie Centre political analyst Maria Lipman told Reuters.
Russia's presidential elections take place on March 4, 2012. In the 2000 presidential election, Putin won 53 percent of the vote and in 2004 he won 71 percent of the vote, according to official results. His protÃ©gÃ©, Dmitry Medvedev, won 70 percent of the vote in 2008 when Putin was barred from running by constitutional limits.
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