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Russia's Candidates for Presidency: Our Guide
February 17, 2012 15:55

As less than a month left until Russia's presidential elections and pre-election race is under way, we would like to offer you a brief look at five candidates who made it on the ballot, telling about their career, political views, supporters and chances for winning.
All the candidates have been arranged according to the order in a voting bulletin.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky
Who: permanent leader of Liberal Democratic Party since 1990, deputy of the Russian State Duma (Parliament)
Age: 65
Key Words: scandal, populism, flaming speeches, striking slogans, mild nationalism, patriotism, brawl with opponents, demagogy.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky's political career began in 1987 with membership in the informal group Fakel. In December 1989 he joined the Democratic Union, a radical group given to staging demonstrations and challenging the authorities. He and others left to found the Liberal Democratic Party in March 1990. The following April the Liberal Democratic Party became the first political party to be officially registered after the constitution of the U.S.S.R. was amended to end the monopoly enjoyed by the Communist Party.
Zhirinovsky ran for presidency in June 1991 and received 6.2 million votes, almost 8 percent of the total. The result was really surprising, but later Zhirinovsky's attempts to become a president in 2000 and 2008 weren't so successful. 
Nonetheless, the Liberal-Democratic Party remained an important force in Russian politics. At the height of its fortunes, the LDPR gathered 23% of the vote in the 1993 Duma elections and achieved a broad representation throughout the country.
 Vladimir Zhirinovsky usually has support of political greenhorns, especially among the poor and uneducated, as he always says what common people want to hear, and does it more often than any other politician. Though he excels in lambasting the authorities, his party has always sided with the Kremlin on all important issues in the 2000s. Zhirinovsky and his party create a lot of interesting political ideas but definitely have lack of wish to put it into practice. That goes for Zhirinovsky’s policies in general – he always favored form over substance, making huge scandals with his opponents on camera and saying striking statements. Some people find it funny, while others call Zhirinovsky a "court jester" near Kremlin "throne".
Presidential candidacy polls:
Levada Center (January 20-23): 7 percent
VTsIOM (February 4-5): 8 percent
FOM (February 2): 9 percent

Gennady Zyuganov
Who: permanent leader of the Communist Party of Russia for 19 years, deputy of the State Duma
Age: 67
Key words: communism, socialism, traditionality, nationalization, main opponent to the current officials, criticism, social support, nostalgia, Soviet slogans, 
Being a career Communist since the 1970s, Gennady Zyuganov was a very powerful politician in 1990s, though now he looks more like a traditional element of Russian political system, who isn't able to create something new. 
Zyuganov’s hour of glory came in 1996, when he was a hair’s breadth away from defeating Boris Yeltsin in the presidential race, but lost it. Nevertheless, the Communists are now the most powerful political force in the country not directly controlled by the Kremlin, though they sometimes have to coordinate their action with the Kremlin. 
Unfortunately, the Communists stick to the past, touting Soviet-era slogans and, occasionally, even Josef Stalin, which actions are rather debatable in modern society. No wonder, that the party and Zyuganov himself has support of mainly elderly people, who have nostalgia about Soviet times, and of work people who seek for social fairness.
 As Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Zyuganov doesn't hesitate to criticize Putin's regime but has obvious problems with realization of his own projects. We can say, Russian people are rather tired of Zyuganov, who has been around for two decades and did not accomplish anything, relishing a position of an opposition leader without any real responsibility. But he, along with Mikhail Prokhorov, is one of the two most likely protest candidates, who can gain votes "against Putin".
Presidential candidacy polls:
Levada Center (January 20-23): 11 percent
VTsIOM (February 4-5): 10 percent
FOM (February 2): 9 percent

Sergey Mironov
Who: leader of the Just Russia party, former speaker of the Federation Council
Age: 58
Key Words: stability, pro-government, social support, balance, undecided role, compromise, slight opposition demands.
 Being an old friend of Vladimir Putin from their St. Petersburg days in the 1990s, Mironov in 2001 got the job of  a speaker in the parliament's upper chamber and in 2006 became leader of the Just Russia party, which actually was a Kremlin spoiler for the Communists. Since its creation the party balanced between attacks on the ruling authorities and supporting the Kremlin. Most of a Just Russia is decidedly anti-Kremlin, with party leaders co-staging anti-government protests in Moscow this winter, but Mironov is rather an undecided one. His statements are always clear and impressive, he attends to social problems in Russia and presents himself and his party as the main defenders of common Russian people.
As a candidate in the 2004 presidential election, Mironov was known for his phrase: "We all want Vladimir Putin to be the next president." He polled less than one per cent of the vote.
However, his role in the coming elections is rather questionable. Mironov isn't very good as an opposition leader. Of course, he supported the opposition’s demands for the next president to implement political reforms and resign within a year or two. But it will take more than a few daring promises to undo the reputation of a Kremlin man that Mironov spent years to develop. And he surely doesn't have much support of pro-government voters, as they already have Vladimir Putin as their candidate. 
Presidential candidacy polls:
Levada Center (January 20-23): 3 percent
VTsIOM (February 4-5): 3 percent
FOM (February 2): 2 percent

Mikhail Prokhorov
Who: oil and gas tycoon, billionaire, former leader of the Right Cause party, self-nominated candidate
Age: 46
Key Words: intrigue, "dark horse", middle-class, new economics, Kremlin project, protest voting, political freedoms, populist program, "rich means bad".
 Mikhail Prokhorov is the main intrigue in the coming election. He is the only new face in the ballot, his career and life are unusual for Russia's traditional political system. He is a very noticeable person and voters look at him with caution and curiosity. 
Earlier Prokhorov was known mainly for his huge fortune, crazy parties and showy antics such as purchasing the New Jersey Nets. But last year he amazed the public heading The Right Cause, a failed Kremlin project to win the middle-class vote from the late 2000s. Soon Prokhorov's views for party's aims differed from the other members, so he was forced to leave the party. In December 2011, he announced his presidential bid and was the only one of three independents to have his bid accepted by the Central Elections Commission.
 Most voters consider Prokhorov as a Kremlin project, but for many, it would not matter, as he is the main candidate who may gain protest votes against Putin. Though the old and the poor would prefer Communist Gennady Zyuganov, many in the middle class are likely to opt for Prokhorov, who participated in protest meetings and created rather a smart and promising program of reforms that targets the “creative class", including political freedoms, improving the economic climate and reining in the bureaucracy. 
But Mikhail Prokhorov also doesn't forget to pay his respects towards the ruling establishment, saying he would not mind being a prime minister under a victorious Putin. And this is not the idea which would please his main voters.
Though Prokhorov's stats are not very good yet, many researchers note the obvious growth in last weeks. So, this candidate surely can bring some surprises. 
Presidential candidacy polls:
Levada Center (January 20-23): 4 percent
VTsIOM (February 4-5): 5 percent
FOM (February 2): 4 percent

Vladimir Putin
Who: former President of Russian Federation (2000-2008), current Premier Minister
Age: 59
Key Words: stability, relief after 1990s, bureaucratic regime, growing discontent, national leader, political stagnation, authoritarian rule.
A KGB low-ranker in the 1980s and a City Hall official in St. Petersburg in the 1990s, Putin catapulted to the ranks of the world's most powerful men after President Boris Yeltsin endorsed him as his successor in 2000. Putin’s supporters credit him with bringing stability to the nation after the “turbulent nineties,” reviving the economy and ensuring that teachers, doctors and other state employees no longer live below the poverty line mainly due to windfall from oil and gas revenues. But critics say Putin ushered in a bureaucratic regime, giving state officials unchecked powers in exchange for loyalty, which resulted in political stagnation, skyrocketing corruption and a dismal economic climate.
No one seriously doubts Putin’s victory at the polls. The real question is if Putin will be able to avoid a second tour, which he has never been faced with before. Because of a growing number of discontents his claims of being a national leader and the legitimacy of his policies are rather questionable. The most notable loss of credibility Putin has among middle-class, while most of state employees, as well as low-paid residents of small towns and the rural population still support him. They aren't' very pleased with their social situations, but see no alternative to Putin among other candidates. 
 Though now the administrative resources and state propaganda are working to its fullest extent to ensure Putin's victory, the election results are still undecided, which makes this presidential race very interesting.
Presidential candidacy polls:
Levada Center (January 20-23): 43 percent
VTsIOM (February 4-5): 53 percent
FOM (February 2): 47 percent

Julia Alieva

Author: Julia Alieva

Tags: Mikhail Prokhorov Russian politics Russian politicians   

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