Presidential Vote Set for March 2

Next year's presidential election will be held March 2, the Federation Council announced Monday.

A Kremlin-backed candidate is expected to win in a landslide. And while Putin is required to leave office when his second term ends in May, the fact that election day has been set allows the president the option of resigning early and then running again, Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov said, Interfax reported.

This scenario would skirt a provision stating that the president cannot serve two successive terms, as there would be an interim president -- the prime minister -- between the time Putin steps down and a new election.

Addressing a news conference Monday, Central Elections Commission chief Vladimir Churov did not provide any comment on the scenario spelled out by Mironov, saying only that a president is not allowed to run in early elections following his resignation, Interfax reported. There was no mention of a president being allowed to run in elections set prior to his resignation.

Several co-authors of the Constitution warned last week that using legal loopholes to allow Putin to run for a third term would threaten the legitimacy of the country's fundamental law.

In order to get on the ballot, independent candidates and candidates from parties not represented in the State Duma must submit at least 2 million signatures from supporters. Candidates from parties represented in the Duma are not subject to this requirement.

Candidates must confirm their intention from Wednesday through Dec. 23 and submit registration documents from Dec. 12 to Jan. 16. The official campaign will run from Feb. 2 to Feb. 29, Churov said.