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Russia's Election Laws Favor Kremlin Candidate

The rules and procedures of Sunday's Russia's presidential election are widely considered to favor candidate Dmitri Medvedev, President Vladimir Putin's designated choice to succeed him. VOA Moscow correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports the Kremlin has framed the Medvedev candidacy in terms of stability.

On Friday, the last official day of a presidential campaign characterized by a lack of vigorous campaigning by the favorite and his three opponents, outgoing President Vladimir Putin said his successor faces large and complex tasks to keep the country moving forward. Mr. Putin has actively supported his designated choice, First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev.

Speaking to a nationwide TV audience, the incumbent said everyone understands the scope and responsibilities that involve the president of a nation as large as Russia. He added that citizens' trust in their leader is of vital importance to ensure stability in Russia.

Public opinion polls indicate a Medvedev victory is a virtual certainty. His opponents are Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, who is seen as representing a discredited past, and the populist firebrand Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who threatened to punch another candidate, Andrei Bogdanov, during a televised debate. Bogdanov, a complete political unknown, managed to get the required two million signatures to register as a candidate. But former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, an experienced politician and outspoken Kremlin critic, was disqualified for allegedly forging signatures on his petition.

Political analyst Alexander Konovalov of Moscow's Strategic Assessment Institute, says even Medvedev opponents do not expect to win.

The opposition candidates, says Konovalov, are like the dancing girls on stage behind a pop singer; they make for better appreciation of the music, but are all in the background.

Konovalov notes that Russia has never held an election according to routine constitutional rules.

They have been somewhat of a creative endeavor, says the analyst, beginning with closed meetings of the Communist Party Central Committee in Soviet times, and ending with the selection of a designated successor in this election.

President Putin defended candidate Medvedev's decision not to participate in debates, saying people are pleased with their achievements and plans, which need no further discussion. But observer Andrei Kortunov of the Eurasia Foundation in Moscow says there is always room for criticism, because there are no limits on improvement.

Kortunov says a competitive political environment and any circulation of alternative ideas is a plus, not a minus. If the authorities do not want that, he notes, it represents poor thinking or fear that alternative ideas may be more appealing.

Another frustrated presidential candidacy is that of former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, whose representatives said in December that authorities pressured landlords not to rent him a hall for a nominating convention.

Kasparov is a leader of an opposition coalition known as "The Other Russia." It has announced protests on Monday in dozens of regions throughout Russia against what it says is the unconstitutional transfer of power to Dmitri Medvedev. Russian authorities have frequently used force to disperse previous demonstrations by The Other Russia.