MADRID: There’s little doubt President Vladimir Putin will be re-elected in Sunday’s presidential elections — but he is facing a range of candidates. Here’s a look at those running against him, even though none have more than 8 per cent in opinion polls.
A former journalist and reality television star has accused Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of holding on to power for almost two decades to benefit their business associates. The 36-year-old liberal candidate from St. Petersburg was once a presenter and head judge on Russia’s version of Next Top Model. During a visit to Washington last month Sobchak said she wants to show Russians they have a choice other than Putin. She vows to cooperate with the United States, Nato and the European Union. Polls give her 2 per cent of the vote
A candidate of the Russian All-People’s Union, Baburin, 59, proposed in 2007 that the government pay each Russian citizen $150,000 (Dh550,000) as compensation for privatising formerly state-owned enterprises after the fall of the Soviet Union. He now supports a return to Soviet-style social programmes. Baburin wants to strengthen Russia’s grip on Crimea through economic development and vows to expand Russia’s role in an economic system with the so-called Brics countries of Brazil, India and China.
Grudinin, 57, owns a majority stake in the Lenin State Farm, a cooperative near Moscow, Russia’s largest strawberry producer. It’s a rare remnant of the 27,000 state-owned collectives established during the Soviet era. Grudinin describes the socialist model as an antidote to corruption in modern Russia. Grudinin told The Christian Science Monitor that unlike many of Russia’s top business leaders, his company’s executives do not send profits abroad or steal them. Instead they make investments in their employees’ schools, kindergartens and a medical clinic. Polls give Grudinin nearly 8 per cent of the vote.
Zhirinovsky, 71, continues to tout some bizarre views as a career politician. When he ran for the presidency in 1993, he pledged Russian men would get cheaper vodka, Russian women would get better underwear and the nation would rebuild its empire. During his 29-year political tenure, he vowed to create a dictatorship and reduce crime through summary executions, as well as expand Russia’s borders to include Alaska and Finland, and to blow radioactive waste into the Baltic states, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Zhirinovsky leads the far-right Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. Polls give Zhirinovsky nearly 6 per cent of the vote.
The leader of the little-known Communists of Russia party, Suraikin, 39, has called for a defence alliance styled on the Soviet-era Warsaw Pact. He wants to raise the minimum wage and pensions, according to the Moscow Times. He was trained as an engineer, ran a small computer company, and ran for governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region in 2014, when he won 2 per cent of the vote, the AP reported. Polls give Suraikin less than one per cent of the vote.
Titov, 57, told The Spectator he doesn’t expect to win, but hopes to use his candidacy to press Putin for better economic policies. He’s the chairman of the pro-business Party for Growth, which aims to protect the right of Russia’s growing middle class, according to Sputnik. As the Russian government’s Presidential Commissioner for Entrepreneurs’ Rights, Titov has worked to repatriate Russian businessmen who were accused of crimes in Russia and fled to Britain to avoid prosecution. He seeks to eliminate regulations and unnecessary inspections that present opportunities for bribes. Polls give Titov less than 1 per cent of the vote.
A liberal economist and former prime minister from the Yabloko Party, Yavlinsky is considered a true opposition candidate. He has opposed Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and garnered death threats from nationalists who call him a traitor. The 65-year old called the election a carnival show and “electoral Halloween” because of the cast of characters on the ballot. He wants an honest government, where the president’s favourite billionaires no longer enjoy favouritism in the media, access to economic spoils and legal immunity. Polls give Yavlinsky less than one per cent of the vote.
— With inputs from agencies