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7 of December, 17:00

Russian opposition nominates ex-premier Kasyanov as presidential candidate
The People`s Democratic Union was to nominate ex-premier Mikhail Kasyanov as a presidential candidate at its congress Friday, with his candidacy to be confirmed after an initiative group meeting Saturday.

The presidential race formally kicked off in Russia last Wednesday with the date set for March 2, 2008. Under the Constitution, incumbent President Vladimir Putin is forbidden from seeking a third term.

Unlike candidates to be put forward by parties receiving more than the 7% vote threshold - these will be spared the necessity of collecting signatures - Kasyanov, as a liberal independent candidate, will have to collect at least 2 million signatures from supporters, which will need to be registered with the Election Commission before December 18.

In addition, as the People`s Democratic Union is not a registered party, it will have to nominate Kasyanov as a candidate from its initiative group at a meeting on Saturday.

A number of politicians have already announced their intention to run in the 2008 presidential elections. These include Gennady Zyuganov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leaders of Russia`s two biggest political parties after United Russia - the Communist Party and the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party, respectively.

Other figures have spoken of plans to run include liberal Grigory Yavlinsky, ex-deputy premier Boris Nemtsov and Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, as well as chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, who was jailed for five days following an opposition march last weekend.

The pro-presidential United Russia party, which won 64% of votes with Putin heading its candidate list at the December 2 polls, has promised to announce its candidate for the presidential race in mid-December.

Activists from the Young Russia pro-presidential youth movement are expected to picket the venues of the People`s Democratic Union`s congress and initiative group meeting.

Kasyanov held the prime ministerial post from May 2000 through February 2004, and was elected chairman of the People`s Democratic Union in April 2006.

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