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Russians vote on Sunday for president

Russians will vote on Sunday for a new leader following an election campaign that has been so uneventful that many people seem unaware that it’s happening at all.
Hindustan Times | By Fred Weir, Moscow
UPDATED ON MAR 01, 2008 11:10 PM IST

Russians will vote on Sunday for a new leader following an election campaign that has been so uneventful that many people seem unaware that it’s happening at all.

“On the surface, it’s as though there were no campaign going on at all,” says Lilia Shibanova, executive director of Golos, Russia’s only independent election watchdog. “There is no political agitation, the cities are bare (of political activity), and there are no serious debates taking place,” she says.

All opinion surveys suggest that the Kremlin-backed candidate, Dmitri Medvedev, will take at least two-thirds of the votes.

Medvedev, a longtime associate of President Vladimir Putin who serves as deputy prime minister and chairman of the state-run gas monopoly Gazprom, has spent most of the past month doing his official job.

He took a single day off this week to record a televised appeal to Russian voters in which he stressed his main theme: political stability and the continuation of Putin’s policies.

Medvedev has refused throughout the month-long campaign to publicly debate his three opponents, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and unknown political newcomer Andrei Bogdanov.

“I don’t need to win a bunch of verbal battles with those who have never been at the helm of state machines, whose programs are outdated and obviously have no chance of being implemented,” Medvedev explained in an interview posted on his website.

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