Zhirinovsky Promises to Clean House

MTZhirinovsky speaking Thursday near the sign "I'll Clean the Whole Country!"
The Liberal Democratic Party on Thursday formally nominated party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky to run for president.

The 171 delegates in the lavish Surikov Hall in northern Moscow voted almost unanimously to nominate Zhirinovsky as their candidate in the March 2 election, in which First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is seen as a favorite after receiving President Vladimir Putin's backing this week.

Zhirinovsky was the only candidate up for nomination. ??????

In a trademark thunderous rant, Zhirinovsky accused pro-Kremlin parties United Russia and A Just Russia of being loaded with corrupt bureaucrats, the Communists of being successors of a terrorist regime, and the liberal Yabloko and Union of Right Forces of being agents of the West.

He stood under a sign that read, "I'll Clean the Whole Country" and said his campaign slogan would be: "You Will Answer for Everything." The bureaucrats will answer, Zhirinovsky clarified.

Dressed in a flashy pink tie, Zhirinovsky spoke for more than an hour, praising the LDPR as the country's only independent political force and saying the party supported democracy and a free press. "We want a different Russia with open and fair elections," Zhirinovsky said.

He also reiterated the more radical points of his political reform program, which includes abolishing ethnic republics and the Federation Council.

Although his voice was amplified to almost unbearable levels and his speech mostly resembled a lecture, Zhirinovsky was well received by delegates.

"He is one the most experienced and talented politicians in Russia," said Viktor Symbal, a delegate from the Far East city of Magadan, where the LDPR got its best result -- 15.4 percent -- in the Dec. 2. State Duma elections.

Symbal argued that Zhirinovsky was a better presidential candidate than Medvedev, as did Sverdlovsk delegate Galina Trubeyeva, who called the Putin-backed candidate "a nobody, just some bureaucrat."

"Zhirinovsky is a personality and the leader of a party," Trubeyeva said.

Zhirinovsky's results in presidential elections have worsened significantly over the years. In 1991, he took third place with almost 8 percent. In 1996, he collected 5.7 percent, and in 2000 he had 2.7 percent. He opted not to run in 2004, leaving the job to his former bodyguard Oleg Malyshkin, who scored 2 percent.

Apart from Zhirinovsky, Medvedev and Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, 25 independent candidates have applied to the Central Elections Commission to run as presidential candidates, commission member Maya Grishina told reporters Thursday.

The candidates include former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, outgoing independent Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov and former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, Grishina said.

According to election laws, independent presidential candidates must be nominated by at least 500 supporters by Dec. 18. If the Central Elections Commission approves the nomination, an independent candidate must then submit two million voter signatures by Jan. 16.

Parties will have until Dec. 23 to hold congresses where they nominate their candidates and submit the nominations to election officials.

Staff Writer Natalya Krainova contributed to this report.