Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 34

After submitting both income and property declarations for 1998 and 1999 and a list of 500,000 signatures supporting his candidacy, Vladimir Putin is officially registered as a candidate in the March 26 presidential election (Russian agencies, February 15). The Central Election Committee (CEC) reported the same day that fifteen candidates had submitted property and income declarations and signature lists. Those already registered include Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Aleksei Podberyozkin, head of the Spiritual Heritage movement. The CEC is set to register Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, and Samara Governor Konstantin Titov, today. A number of others, including Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky, are waiting for their applications to be approved.

Putin has regularly received “support” from 50 percent or more of opinion poll respondents, leaving all other potential rivals far behind. The one potential rival to Putin who might have represented a threat, former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, announced on February 4 that he would not run. Primakov, who had said on December 17 that he would, changed his mind after realizing how far Russia was from “true democracy” (Russian agencies, February 4).

Putin, of course, is also strongly supported inside Russia’s military and “power ministries,” and has received verbal endorsements from a number of regional leaders, despite his harsh words about some regions violating federal laws and rumors that he may attempt to take power away from Russia’s eighty-nine regions if he wins on March 26. For example, Oleg Korolev, deputy speaker of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament (all regional leaders), said that the March 26 vote should be seen as a vote on which “path” Russia should take and that the country should “unite around Putin” (Russian agencies, February 15). Yesterday Putin addressed the Federation of Independent Trade Unions. Afterward its general council switched allegiance, abandoning Primakov and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov (the two leaders of the Fatherland-All Russia coalition), and voting in favor of a declaration of support for Putin (Russian agencies, February 16).

Putin has not yet released his election platform, but has promised to do so after February 25, when the official campaign legally begins. He did say this week that his program will concentrate on restoring and developing moral values in Russia rather than such things as tax policy (Russian agencies, February 15). But he has nonetheless dropped hints of what his economic program might look like, and certain elements are not likely to please some of the Russian government’s creditors, including the International Monetary Fund. Yesterday, for example, Putin said that he categorically opposes breaking up Russia’s “natural monopolies,” including the Gazprom gas monopoly, United Energy Systems, Russia’s power grid and the railroads. Both the IMF and Gazprom Chairman Rem Vyakhirev have come out for splitting Gazprom into separate production and sales units. Under pressure from the government, however, Vyakhirev has backed away from that position. Perhaps not coincidentally, Vyakhirev said yesterday that he sees Putin as “the most serious” presidential candidate (Russian agencies, February 16). First Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who is widely believed to be the favorite prime ministerial candidate should Putin win as expected on March 26, this week ruled out any major reduction in taxes and that the government might set up a system of state-guaranteed agricultural prices (Expert, February 14).