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Russia's Parties Name their Top Candidates
The electoral campaign in Russia kicked off despite numerous complaints from opposition parties accusing the party of power, United Russia, of using the so-called administrative resources - preferential access to public spaces and mass media. So far, 15 parties have registered their electoral lists. In accordance with recent change in electoral law, for the first time, parties have to register regional lists, with the hope that voters will be able to choose from candidates they know from local news and events. At the federal level, voters know parties mostly by the top three candidates on the party list who will be the first to enter the Duma if a party receives more than 7 percent of the vote nationwide.
With the notable exception of United Russia, almost all parties made their top three candidates public at their conventions. Besides United Russia, the parties with the best chance of making it into the Duma are: the Communist Party, Just Russia, the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) and the Union of Right Forces (SPS). Vladimir Zhirinovsky's choice was, as usual, the most extravagant one. The second candidate on his party list (after himself) is Andrei Lugovoi, whose current notoriety comes from being named a leading suspect in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. Rounding out LDPR's "troika" is Alexander Lebedev, Zhirinovsky's son.
The Communist Party was somewhat less flamboyant in its choices, opting for left-minded Nobel prize laureate, physicist Zhores Alfyorov, former kolkhoz chairman Nikolai Kharitonov and the party's unchallenged leader since 1993, Gennady Zyuganov.
Just Russia chose its Kremlin-loyal leader, Sergei Mironov, currently the chairman of the Federation Council, to head its list. The second slot was taken by Svetlana Goryacheva, a former member of the Communist Party and a former prosecutor known for her strongly moralist views. Just Russia's top three concludes with Sergei Shargunov, a 27-year-old popular fiction writer who has been the leader of the party's youth wing.
The liberal Union of Right Forces (SPS) created a media intrigue around its list, as the potential candidates included Sergei Sychyov, the soldier who suffered multiple amputations as a result of hazing, and Maria Gaidar, the daughter of Russia's former liberal Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, who was herself horrified by the inclusion of Sychyov. "The party bosses are using this poor, badly disabled young man for their own purposes," Gaidar wrote in an open letter to the party leaders. As a result, the party's convention opted for a more conservative strategy, nominating party leader Nikita Belykh, former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov and Marietta Chudakova, a literary critic and philologist known for her studies of writers opposed to the Soviet regime including Mikhail Bulgakov and Andrei Platonov.
The smaller parties, striving to attract attention, put popular figures and TV personalities on their lists, even if the credentials of those people were somewhat controversial. The Civil Force, a party popularly seen as a "spoiler" group aimed at stealing the liberal vote from the Union of Right Forces, is headed by attorney Mikhail Barshchevsky, a popular figure on various intellectual TV shows, and Mariya Arbatova, a fiery feminist and TV personality known for her non-standard views on sex and marriage.
Some experts and prominent public figures expressed dissatisfaction at this tendency, saying that it turns serious politics into a contest for viewers' sympathies.
"Parties do not know how to attract attention to themselves," said Vyacheslav Nikonov, head of the Unity in the Name of Russia foundation, a think tank associated with United Russia. "So they try to attract television viewers by putting familiar faces into their lists who have no real political meaning whatsoever.
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