Former Russian PM barred from poll

Updated on Jan 27, 2008 09:57 PM IST

Former PM Mikhail Kasyanov, a leading critic of the Kremlin, has been barred from running in elections to replace President Vladimir Putin, reports Fred Weir.

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Hindustan Times | ByFred Weir, Moscow

Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, a leading critic of the Kremlin, has been barred from running in elections to replace President Vladimir Putin in just over a month.

The ballot finalised Sunday by Russia's Central Election Commission contains four candidates, including Putin's annointed successor Dmitri Medvedev, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and head of the tiny, liberal Democratic Party Andrei Bogdanov.

Kasyanov's candidacy was blocked after almost 14 per cent of his 2-million nomination signatures were found to be falsified, officials said.

But Kasyanov has denied that his campaign workers forged any signatures and accused the authorities of fabricating the accusation as a means of keeping him out of the race. "(Excluding Kasyanov from the ballot) means the elections will be a farce," Kasyanov's spokeswoman told journalists Sunday. "It shows the authorities are afraid of any competition, it means the authorities fear any alternative points of view," she added.

Kasyanov, 50, was prime minister during Putin's first term as president, but was dismissed in 2004.

A liberal, pro-Western politician, Kasyanov said he planned to campaign for president on a platform of arresting Russia's "creeping authoritarianism" under Putin and introducing pro-business policies to stimulate economic development and relieve Russia's dependence on oil and gas exports.

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