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Candidate banned

January 27, 2012

The only liberal candidate seeking to run for president on March 4 has been disqualified from the election, after officials ruled nearly a quarter of his registration signatures were either copies or fakes.

Grigory Yavlinsky
Yavlinsky ran for president in 1996 and 2000Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Russian electoral officials on Friday disqualified the only liberal challenger to Vladimir Putin in presidential elections on March 4, sparking allegations that the poll's legitimacy had been undermined.

The central elections commission said it could not accept Grigory Yavlinsky's candidacy because it found nearly a quarter of the registration signatures were either photocopies or forgeries.

"I am sad to announce that we will not able to register Yavlinsky as a candidate," election commission member Sergei Danilenko said at a special hearing.

Russia requires all presidential hopefuls whose parties did not make it into parliament to gather two million signatures in order to get on the ballot. That number is twice what was required before then-president Vladimir Putin changed the rules in 2004, tightening his grip on power. In 2007 he shortened the time candidates could rally their support from three months to one.

Vladimir Putin's electoral website
Putin is all but certain to win the election on March 4Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Sergei Mitrokhin, chairman of the liberal Yabloko (Apple) party that Yavlinsky founded in 1993, accused Putin of ordering the disqualification and said the electoral commission's decision "undermines the legitimacy of the vote."

Party's role as monitor

Mitrokhin said the authorities were eager to prevent Yabloko from monitoring the vote, a right granted to participants, after it sent thousands of observers to December's parliamentary elections.

However, Putin's spokesman said Mitrokhin's comments were unfair. "If one of the candidates fails to collect the required number of signatures, this does not mean you can make claims about the vote's illegitimacy," Dmitry Peskov told the state news agency RIA Novosti.

Yavlinsky, a 59-year-old economist who ran for the presidency in 1996 and 2000 but failed to gain more than 10 percent of the vote, had virtually no chance of winning the election. Analysts expect Putin, currently prime minister, to win easily.

Author: Andrew Bowen, Richard Connor (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Nancy Isenson