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The Countdown Begins

Some analysis of Vladimir Putin’s current position appears in The Economist this week, where author G.F. suggests that Alexei Kudrin is playing turncoat by ‘masquerading‘ as a reformer, and that Putin’s apparent concessions to the middle class, to whom he appealed in this week’s Izvestia article, only make him look weak: ‘[… B]y paying lip service to their demands he has only drawn attention to his central dilemma: crack down and risk bigger demonstrations, or ease up and undermine the carefully cultivated perception of authoritarian dominance.‘  Here’s more:

Although Mr Putin will almost certainly win re-election in March, how much real power he retains will largely depend on his handling of the election. Experts agree that he will want to win in the first round to preserve his aura of invincibility. The elections commission is set to select final candidates tomorrow. Most predict that either Mikhail Prokhorov, an oligarch, or Grigory Yavlinsky, a veteran liberal, will be ditched. Both are seen as Kremlin-approved figures meant to add a sheen of legitimacy to the process.

In fact, the final date for choosing the candidates is January 29th – tonight sees prospective contenders handing in their 2 million required signatures, to be ‘verified’ by a (presumably) unbiased team of analysts. (If any candidates are to be ditched, you can be it will be due to accusations of forged signatories…)

Currently registered are Vladimir Putin, A Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov, Communist Gennady Zyuganov, and Liberal Democratic leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who are not required to submit signatures as they already belong to registered parties.  The independent candidates awaiting approval are Mikhail Prokhorov (who submitted his signatures five and a half hours late), Irkutsk governor Dmitry Mezentsev, and Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky.