Medvedev Campaign Made Official

APCommunists laying wreaths at the entrance of Lenin's tomb to commemorate the anniversary of his death in 1924.
The Central Elections Commission on Monday registered First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as a candidate in the March 2 presidential election, allowing the man backed by President Vladimir Putin to begin formally organizing his campaign.

Elections commission chief Vladimir Churov presented Medvedev's formal registration to senior United Russia official Vyacheslav Volodin in an event Medvedev did not attend.

"He works," Volodin told reports, explaining Medvedev's absence. "Our candidate prefers real affairs: To meet with people and solve real problems."

Medvedev, who applied for registration on Jan. 14, was nominated last month by United Russia and has received the backing of political parties A Just Russia, the Agrarian Party and Civil Force.

Along with Medvedev, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov and Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky have both been registered for the ballot.

Officials are still analyzing signatures submitted by the two independent candidates seeking to run: former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Democratic Party leader Andrei Bogdanov, election commission member Nikolai Konkin said, Interfax reported.

Independent candidates must submit 2 million signatures in support of their bids to the commission, which then verifies the signatures. Candidates nominated by parties represented in the State Duma are not required to collect signatures.

The Central Elections Commission is scheduled to release the final list of candidates on Sunday.

Medvedev's registration means he can now begin formally organizing his campaign headquarters, though candidates can only legally begin campaigning on Feb. 2. The Communists, however, have accused Medvedev of early campaigning.

On Monday, they filed a request with the Prosecutor General's Office asking for Central Elections Commission officials to be investigated for refusing to look into whether Medvedev has received more airtime than other candidates on state-controlled television.

"The congresses of United Russia and the Communist Party to nominate their presidential candidates were unequally covered by federal media, which focused their attention only on United Russia," said Vadim Solovyov, the Communists' representative at the Central Elections Commission, Interfax reported.

Putin's endorsement of Medvedev gives the Kremlin-picked candidate an immense advantage in the election, and his victory is widely seen as inevitable.

According to VTsIOM, the state pollster, Medvedev as of Monday had the support of 60 percent of voters, Zhirinovsky had 8 percent, and Zyuganov had 6 percent. Kasyanov, Putin's first prime minister, had a mere 1 percent of the support, according to the poll, conducted Jan 12 and 13 among 1,600 voters nationwide. It had a margin of error of 3.4 percent.

A poll conducted last month by the independent Levada Center showed that 79 percent of respondents backed Medvedev.

Medvedev will remain at his post as first deputy prime minister during the campaign. An elections commission spokesman said Medvedev was not required to leave his job during the campaign.

n In addition to voting for a new president, voters in 11 regions will cast their ballots March 2 in regional parliamentary elections. Governors are topping United Russia's lists in the regions, while Andrei Lugovoi, a Duma deputy for the Liberal Democratic Party who is accused of murder in Britain, is heading the LDPR list in Rostov.

Lugovoi, a former security services officer, is wanted in Britain in connection with the poisoning of another former security services officer, Alexander Litvinenko. Lugovoi is challenging Governor Vladimir Chub, who heads the United Russia list in the Rostov region.

In addition to Rostov, voters in Kalmykia, Ingushetia, Yaroslavl, Ivanovo, Ulyanovsk, Sverdlovsk, Bashkortostan, Altai region, Sakha and Amur are set to elect regional parliaments on March 2.