Russia gives green light to billionaire's bid for president
MOSCOW - Agence France- Presse
Mikhail Prokhorov. AFP PhotoRussian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who hopes to challenge Vladimir Putin for the presidency, was on Wednesday officially registered to run, becoming the fifth candidate in the historic March race.
Members of the Central Election Commission headed by Putin ally Vladimir Churov overwhelmingly voted to register him as a candidate in the March 4 presidential vote, an AFP correspondent reported from the commission's meeting.
His registration is expected to add fodder to widespread suggestions that Prokhorov will run as a Kremlin-friendly candidate to soak up opposition to Putin.
Prokhorov, ranked by Forbes magazine as Russia's third-richest man, has insisted he is his own man although his criticism of the powerful prime minister has been muted. Liberal politician Grigory Yavlinsky, the leader of Yabloko party, is likely to be forced out of the race after the electoral commission said too many of his supporters' signatures had errors.
Vladimir Putin speaks to his
supporters. REUTERS Photo
The electoral commission said Tuesday it had examined 600,000 of the two million signatures Yavlinsky submitted to qualify to run, and found that a quarter of them had problems.
Yabloko said its leader was being excluded from the race for political reasons.
Election officials dismissed the accusation, saying Prokhorov was registered because less than the limit of five percent of the signatures he submitted were questionable.
Four candidates -- Putin, Gennady Zyuganov of the Communist Party, Sergei Mironov of A Just Russia party and Vladimir Zhirinovsky of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia -- had previously been registered.