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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Group of Liberals Calls for a Boycott of the Election

A group of prominent liberals Tuesday denounced the March 14 presidential election as a farce and urged both voters and opposition candidates to boycott the vote.

World chess champion Garry Kasparov and other leaders of Committee 2008: Free Choice said the campaign's heavy tilt in favor of President Vladimir Putin makes it senseless to participate in the election.

"We are appealing to the reason and conscience of voters," committee co-chairman Sergei Parkhomenko said. "The vote is just an imitation of elections, and they shouldn't allow themselves to be drawn into this show."

The committee is also calling on the six candidates challenging Putin to withdraw their candidacies.

Parkhomenko said that the Kremlin was encouraging the opposition candidates to stay in the race because their withdrawal would jeopardize voter turnout.

Irina Khakamada, the top liberal candidate, said earlier that she would withdraw from the race if two other leading candidates, nationalist Sergei Glazyev and Communist Nikolai Kharitonov, did the same. However, both said they would remain in the race.

While reports on Putin's daily activities dominate state-controlled nationwide television stations, leaving little time for other contenders, state-run Rossia on Tuesday gave unusually lavish coverage to a news conference during which Khakamada urged voters to come to the polls.

Despite the committee's call on candidates to withdraw from the race, Parkhomenko said they would likely stay on, guided by their own ambitions.

Committee 2008: Free Choice, which was established in January, aims to conduct public education campaigns over the next four years on the importance of strongly contested presidential elections.

Parkhomenko conceded that the committee's move would not significantly affect the vote, saying that the authorities would ensure a turnout of at least 60 percent by all means. Fifty percent is needed to validate the election.

He described the action as part of efforts to increase public awareness about authoritarian trends in politics and said a high turnout in the vote, which Putin is expected to win in a landslide, will further strengthen those trends. "People must not take part in endorsing a mandate for dictatorship," he said.