Russian elections: Who is running against Vladimir Putin?

Two communists, two ultra-nationalists, a socialite, a businessman and a liberal are Putin’s competition in the race.

Russia 2018 outside image [Al Jazeera]
Russia 2018 outside image [Al Jazeera]

On February 18, the Central Electoral Commission in Russia announced the final list of approved candidates for the March 18 presidential elections.

Beside President Vladimir Putin, seven other candidates were allowed to run the race. Two of them – Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Grigory Yavlinsky – have run against Putin in the past.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was barred from running in December over a conviction of fraud in a court case his supporters see as politically motivated.

None of the seven other candidates competing against Putin has polled above eight percent in pre-election surveys.

Here is what they are known for.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky – ‘the anti-Semitic ultra-nationalist with Jewish roots’
Campaign slogan: “Powerful thrust forward!”

Vladimir Zhirinovsky (nee Eidelstein) is leader of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia.

He is the absolute veteran among this year’s candidates, having run in more elections than Vladimir Putin himself.

He has contested all six presidential elections since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

He is known for his verbally aggressive demeanour and controversial statements, including anti-Semitic remarks accusing Jews of “provoking” the Holocaust.

In a 2001 book, he admitted his father was a Jewish lawyer who immigrated to Israel.

Ksenia Sobchak – ‘the daughter of Putin’s former boss’
Campaign slogan: “Sobchak against all!” 

Ksenia Sobchak is a TV host and socialite, sometimes referred to as the “Russian Paris Hilton” in local media.

She is the daughter of Anatoly Sobchak, former mayor of St Petersburg, whom Vladimir Putin used to work for as an aide in the 1990s.

In the 2000s, she hosted reality TV shows Dom 2 and Blonde in Chocolate.

In 2011-2012, she joined the popular anti-government protests in Moscow, during which she gave a speech, declaring that it is more important to “influence power, not to fight for power”.

Аfter she announced her intention to run in the elections, she asked disqualified opposition leader Alexei Navalny to help her with her campaign – a request he rejected.

Sergey Baburin – ‘the communist ultra-nationalist’
Campaign slogan: “The Russian choice!” 

Sergey Baburin is head of the ultra-nationalist Russian All-People’s Union.

He served in the war in Afghanistan for a year in the early 1980s.

In 1991, as member of the Supreme Council, he voted against the dissolution of the USSR.

Since the early 1990s, he has been a member of various nationalist organisations and has participated in the far-right Russian march.

He has been a member of the Russian Duma three times and has called for the unification of Belarus and Russia.

After Vladimir Putin’s famous Munich speech in 2007, Baburin told local media that he could not get “enough of Putin”.

He is also rector of the Russian State University of Trade and Economics.

Pavel Grudinin – ‘the communist millionaire’
Campaign slogan: “The president who Russia is waiting for!” 

Pavel Grudinin is the presidential candidate put forward by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF).

He took over running in the elections from veteran party leader Genady Zyuganov, who ran in all previous races.

Grudinin is a prominent businessman who made his fortune as the director of an agriculture cooperative, selling the lands it owned on the outskirts of Moscow to real-estate developers.

During his campaign, he was criticised for keeping millions of rubles in offshore bank accounts.

He was elected deputy in the State Duma three times. 

Maxim Suraykin – ‘the Stalinist communist’
Campaign slogan: “Russia needs a Stalinist communist president!”

Maxim Suraykin, who insists on being called “Comrade Suraikin” on air, is leader of the Communists of Russia party.

At age 18, he joined the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), but left it eight years later for “ideological reasons”.

He was also involved in the resurrection of the Komsomol youth organisation.

He is calling for the return of communism and the resurrection of the USSR.

He also venerates Joseph Stalin and says that he did not order the repressions of the 1930s and in fact tried to stop them.

Boris Titov – “the businessman”  
Campaign slogan: “The working man should not be poor!” 

Boris Titov is a businessman, head of the organisation the Growth Party and a business ombudsman under President Vladimir Putin.

In the 1980s, he worked in various Soviet foreign trade enterprises dealing with oil and oil products.

In the early 1990s, he worked in a company headed by Gennady Timchenko, who is now one of the richest men in Russia and is thought to be close to Putin.

In the 1990s, Titov started his own business in the oil and chemical industries.

As Russia’s business ombudsman he was tasked with convincing Russian oligarchs who had fled the country to come back.

Titov is said to represent the interests of big business close to the Kremlin.

Grigory Yavlinsky – ‘the liberal’  
Campaign slogan: “Believe in the future! Believe in yourself!” 

Grigory Yavlinsky is an economist and an opposition leader.

In the 1990s, he drafted a programme for the transition of the USSR to a market economy.

He is one of the founders of the liberal Yabloko Party, which was the main liberal party in the Russian Duma until 2003.

In 2008, after Yavlinsky had a personal meeting with Vladimir Putin, fellow party members demanded his resignation from the leadership of the party.

He ran in the 1996 and 2000 presidential elections and was disqualified from running in 2012.


Source : Al Jazeera

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