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Another Kremlin challenger drops out of Russian presidential race

Another Kremlin challenger drops out of Russian presidential race

The number of candidates willing to challenge the Kremlin's choice for Russian president dwindled further Wednesday when Boris Nemtsov, leader of a pro-business party, dropped out of the race.
Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister, said he was withdrawing so as not to split the vote with what he described as the only other remaining candidate from the democratic opposition, former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov.
He called on Kasyanov and Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov to demand equal opportunities to campaign, including on state-controlled national television. If the Kremlin refused, Nemtsov said they should withdraw their candidacies rather than lend legitimacy to the March election.
Zyuganov told journalists Wednesday that he would consider pulling out of the race unless the campaign were fair. The Communists finished a distant second to the dominant Kremlin party in parliamentary elections early this month and have challenged the results.
President Vladimir Putin, who is barred from seeking a third straight term, has backed his protege Dmitry Medvedev in the election. The endorsement virtually assures Medvedev's victory, given Putin's popularity and the Kremlin's powerful influence over the political system and broadcast media.
On Wednesday, television viewers were treated to scenes of Medvedev at a New Year's show for children in the Kremlin. He said that as a boy he was never able to attend the traditional holiday show, but one year his father brought him one of the boxes of candy that had been handed out as presents.
"It was the best candy I ever had, first because it was from the Kremlin and second because it really was good," Medvedev said. The scene was shown on hourly news broadcasts throughout the day.
While Medvedev, a first deputy prime minister, receives daily coverage on national television, opposition candidates are rarely shown. Opposition leaders also complain that they have been blocked from meeting with supporters, their activists have been harassed and their campaign materials have been seized.
Other opposition candidates who have withdrawn from the race include Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion who has become a vocal Putin opponent, and Grigory Yavlinsky, the head of the liberal Yabloko party who participated in previous presidential elections.
Neither Yabloko nor Nemtsov's party, the Union of Right Forces, passed the 7 percent threshold in the Dec. 2 election to win seats in parliament.
Yavlinsky said the scope of voting violations recorded by observers from opposition parties during the parliamentary elections cast doubt on the legitimacy of the results. Kasparov called it the "dirtiest" election in Russia's post-Soviet history.


Updated : 2021-05-15 17:17 GMT+08:00