Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin has been officially endorsed by Russia's Central Election Commission as the fourth candidate to run in March's presidential election.
The remaining candidates have until January 31 to submit the necessary signatures of eligible voters and documents for registration as candidates, election officer Ella Pamfilova announced in Moscow on Monday.
So far, only candidates considered unlikely or who support Putin have been allowed. As representatives of parliamentary parties they are not required to submit any supporting signatures. Elections will be held from March 15 to 17.
Putin, 71, who has been in power for nearly a quarter of a century, did not want to be nominated by the Kremlin's “United Russia” party, but instead wanted to run as an individual candidate. He collected the necessary supporting signatures, which have now been found valid after random testing. Although there was no doubt about it, Russian media reported that Putin's endorsement caused a global sensation.
However, it is questionable whether candidate Boris Nadeshtin, backed by Russia's anti-Kremlin opposition, will be allowed to vote. The 60-year-old calls for an end to the war against Ukraine. So far, Nadezhdin has collected more than 200,000 signatures from supporters, some of whom waited in long queues – more than double what was required.
However, the EC has repeatedly declared many signatures invalid due to formal objections. In a sample of 60,000 signatures for Putin's candidacy, the rate of incorrect supporter names was 0.15 percent. Speculation has been rife for days whether Nadeshtin, a liberal politician, would be allowed in. Many observers reject this.
Election victory for Putin is considered certain. This is his fifth term in office, which he made possible through a constitutional amendment. In 2030, the former intelligence chief, who has been waging a nearly two-year war against Ukraine, could run for re-election — another six years as president. In Russia, the Kremlin candidate is always declared the winner of the election.
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