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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Vladimir Putin Makes Yabloko's Regional List

Vladimir Putin is on the liberal Yabloko party's State Duma ticket in the Stavropol region, while Sergei Ivanov is heading up the Leningrad regional ticket of the Union of Right Forces. But names aside, these two candidates in the Dec. 2 Duma elections have little to do with President Vladimir Putin and First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov.

"I've been a member of Yabloko since 2003, and I head up the party's branch in Stavropol," Putin said.

The use of candidates with the same names as other candidates or famous personalities -- known as "doubles" or "clones" -- has a rich tradition in Russian electoral politics. The PR wizards behind these ruses typically attempt to confuse and squeeze votes out of an unsuspecting electorate. Both Putin and Ivanov denied that their inclusion on the liberal parties' regional tickets was an attempt to trick naive voters.

"My name has nothing to do with a PR stunt," Putin said. "I was asked to join the party ticket, and my candidacy was voted on at a party meeting."

No media outlets were present at the meeting, Putin said.

Ivanov, a 31-year-old candidate for the Union of Right Forces, or SPS, said his surname was so common in Russia that it would draw little attention.

"It gives neither an advantage nor a disadvantage," he said by telephone. "Everyone knows who the first deputy prime minister is, and people are very unlikely to mistake his name with that of a candidate from an opposition party."

Ivanov said he joined SPS last year.

Putin, who at age 45 is a decade younger than his presidential namesake, admitted that a name like his hardly goes unnoticed in Russia.

"When you have a name like mine, you better understand the Russian mentality and the servility of Russian people," Putin said by telephone from Stavropol. "My surname helps a lot with the police. They behave with me because they are afraid of my last name."

Unemployed or alcoholic people have been used as clone candidates in the past. During the 2000 gubernatorial race in Bryansk, for example, two people with the same last name as the incumbent candidate -- Yury Lodkin -- entered the race, while Governor Lodkin's main rival -- Nikolai Denin -- found himself running against three people with the same last name. One of them, Ivan Denin, was an ex-convict who had twice been hospitalized for alcoholism. A month before the election, Ivan Devin was made the head of a company called Snezhka, the same name as the poultry company headed up by Nikolai Denin.

Political analyst Nikolai Petrov said it was unlikely that the two liberal parties were trying to pull a fast one on voters by putting Putin and Ivanov on their respective tickets.

"I don't think they chose them on purpose, but if they did, this is not something that would attract more votes," Petrov said. Each party has the support of about 2 percent of decided voters.