Kasyanov Loses Case on Appeal

The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned down an appeal by Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov that he be allowed on the ballot for the March 2 presidential election.

The decision, which Kasyanov's lawyer Vadim Prokhorov said his client would still appeal, came on the same day the country's only independent election-monitoring group expressed strong criticism of the election registration process.

"We consider the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the ruling of the Central Elections Commission unfounded and illegal," Prokhorov said Tuesday.

He said Kasyanov would file an appeal of the ruling on Monday or Tuesday in the court's cassation division, which is charged with hearing final appeals.

Repeated calls to the Supreme Court's press office late Tuesday afternoon went unanswered.

The Central Elections Commission last month barred Kasyanov from running in the presidential vote, ruling that hundreds of thousands of the 2 million signatures he had submitted in support of his candidacy were forged or incorrectly documented.

Golos, a nongovernmental organization that monitors elections in the country, on Tuesday slammed the commission's procedures for examining signatures contained in potential candidates' applications.

"According to Russian law, it is harder to collect authentic signatures, free of any technical shortcomings, than it is to get forged examples that will be authorized by loyal officials," Alexander Kynev, an analyst with the NGO, said at a news conference Tuesday.

Golos said in a statement, also released Tuesday, that current laws regulating presidential elections "make possible only the registration of candidates who have been nominated by parties represented in the State Duma."

The organization said the lack of time between elections was also a problem. It said that the short break after the State Duma vote prevented some candidates, and opposition groups in particular, from preparing sufficiently for the presidential election.

The organization suggested extending presidential terms to five years as one way to introduce a longer break between campaigns.