Kremlin critic Kasyanov barred from presidential election

By RIA Novosti

Moscow : Russia’s central election commission on Sunday officially barred Kremlin opponent Mikhail Kasyanov from the presidential elections scheduled for March 2.

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After examining signatures in favor of ex-premier Kasyanov’s candidacy for the March 2 election, the central election commission invalidated 13.38% of them, well over the 5% limit beyond which a candidate’s registration is denied.

Under Russian law, a presidential candidate has to collect at least 2 million signatures in his or her support.

Kasyanov was prime minister during Putin’s first term, but was dismissed in 2004. Commonly known in Russia as “Misha two-percent,” a reference to bribery allegations concerning his time in office, Kasyanov is heavily associated with the Yeltsin years, which saw widespread hardship in Russia, and has little popular support. Misha is the diminutive version of the Russian name Mikhail.

The central election commission has so far registered four candidates for the March 2 presidential elections: First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, the Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Andrei Bogdanov, the leader of the tiny Democratic Party.

Medvedev, who has been publicly backed by President Putin, is the clear front-runner.