Candidates Reveal Plans and Platforms

APZhirinovsky gesturing as he presents his campaign platform on Thursday.
With barely a month left before the vote, campaigning for the March 2 presidential election picked up steam Thursday as Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov announced that he would take part in televised debates and Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky unveiled his campaign platform.

"Following the extreme agitation that has surrounded the question of participation or nonparticipation in the debates ... the decision was made to take part," Communist Party deputy leader Ivan Melnikov said through a spokesman on Thursday.

Melnikov said the main objective behind the decision was achieving maximum exposure for the party "under the current difficult conditions."

The announcement leaves First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the overwhelming favorite in the race, as the only candidate to refuse to participate.

"According to the law, D. Medvedev has the right to refrain from debates," Maya Grishina, a Central Elections Commission member, said in e-mailed comments Thursday.

The other two candidates, Zhirinovsky and Andrei Bogdanov, the leader of the Democratic Party of Russia, announced last week that they would take part.

Zhirinovsky was invited to speak Thursday at the Carnegie Moscow Center, where one of the think tank's analysts, Alexei Sidarenko, said he gave a typically charismatic performance.

"Despite the fact that the majority of his platform is contradictory -- for example, he promises to lower taxes but raise pensions, or give business complete freedom while insisting that the government take a minimum stake in all large companies -- he delivered an energetic presentation," Sidarenko said.

The LDPR leader told the audience of journalists and analysts that he was the only candidate of the four who actually wanted to become president, describing the others as "puppets," Sidarenko said.

Also on Thursday, the Central Elections Commission moved to quiet talk of Bogdanov being removed from the ballot after reports that some of the signatures submitted with his application petition had been forged.

"The signatures collected in support of the candidate Bogdanov are, at the moment, enough for his registration," the commission's Grishina said.

Prosecutors in the Yaroslavl region opened a criminal case after a number of the signatures collected for Bogdanov there were found to be penned by people other than the signatories, Interfax reported Thursday.

The commission refused former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov a place on the ballot Sunday after ruling that over 13 percent of the signatures he collected were invalid. Only a tiny fraction of those were actual forgeries, the commission said.