Prokhorov and Yavlinsky collect 2 million signatures needed to run for Russian President

Opposition politicians Mikhail Prokhorov and Grigory Yavlinsky have each announced that they have collected the two million signatures needed for them to enter the 2012 Russian Presidential election race.

Prokhorov, who with $18 billion to his name is Russia’s third richest man, plans to run as an independent candidate with no party backing and Yavlinsky plans to run as a candidate of the liberal Yabloko party. Both made announcements via their Facebook pages and both plan to submit the signatures they have collected to the Central Election Commission for inspection.

Complex approval process

Mikhail Prokhorov's Facebook announcement

Because neither man is the candidate of a political party that has seats in the Russian Duma, each has been obliged to collect two million signatures to secure a place in the election.

To make the task even more difficult only a maximum of 50,000 signatures can come from a single Russian region, which means that 50,000 people must be found in each of at least 40 Russian regions.

Approval is by no means guaranteed, and the CEC has been accused in the past of using the difficult registration process as a way to block opposition parties from taking part in elections. Mikhail Kasyanov was denied entry into the last Presidential election because some of his signatures were deemed invalid and, as recently as last summer, the People’s Freedom Party was blocked from registering as an official political party for failing to collect enough valid signatures.

Both candidates are confident that their applications will be approved, though, and that they will be on the ballot come March. Given the increased scrutiny of this election, refusal to grant approval would be a PR disaster for the Russian Government.

Additionally, it’s looking increasingly likely that Putin will fail to reach the 50% threshold needed to win the election outright in the first round. The more candidates there are in an election, the better the excuse Putin’s team has for not securing a first round victory so, unless there are some blatant violations of electoral law, I think it’s unlikely that the CEC will take the risk of refusing to register either Prokhorov or Yavlinsky.

Campaigning begins in earnest

Putin's 2012 Presidential election campaign website

Following the end of the Christmas and New Year holidays in Russia, campaigning proper for the elections seems to have gotten underway.

Vladimir Putin unveiled his manifesto on his putin2012.ru website earlier today. He seems to be playing the ‘steady hand in a storm’ card, playing on his previous successes and observing that while calls for revolution can be attractive, especially in Russia, they rarely have a positive outcome:

“A recurring problem in Russian history is the desire of a part of its elites to make leaps, to embrace revolution instead of sequential development. Not only Russian experience, but all world experience shows the fatal result of historic leaps: haste and subversion , without creation.”

Off less interest to the foreign observer, perhaps, Putin also promised that, if he is elected, he will improve education in Russia, create millions of new high tech jobs and eradicate poverty in Russia within a decade.

Mikhail Prokhorov, meanwhile, has turned his attention to negative campaigning. In an article for Russian newspaper RBK Daily, he accused the other Russian opposition parties of selling out Russian voters in their haste to accomodate Putin and United Russia. He added that they had “decided to ride the wave of public discontent and convert it for their gain, both politically and commercially.”

The Communist Party hit back with a well aimed below the belt jab of their own, suggesting that Prokhorov might want to explain just how he managed to acquire a personal wealth of $18 billion.

Finally, Vladimir Zhirinosky, the ever-youthful leader of the nationalist Liberal Democrats unveiled his upbeat campaign slogan today. “It’s Zhirinovsky or it will be worse”.

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