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Cablegate: Russia: Presidential Election Set for March 2

VZCZCXRO5543
PP RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #5529/01 3301610
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 261610Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5453
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 005529

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIA: PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION SET FOR MARCH 2


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SUMMARY
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1. (U) A week before Russians head to the polls to vote in
the State Duma elections, the Federation Council passed a
resolution naming March 2, 2008 as the date of the
presidential election. The unanimous decision by the upper
house of parliament was expected and will become official
when it is published within the next five days in Russia's
state newspaper. The registration process for presidential
candidates will follow closely on the heels of the Duma
elections. More than half a dozen candidates have announced
their intention to run for president; the potential pool of
presidential candidates will be known by December 25. The
process is weighted against independent candidates and those
not backed by a party represented in the Duma. End summary.

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PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION TO BE HELD MARCH 2
----------------------------------------

2. (U) Members of the Federation Council voted unanimously
November 26, to set March 2, 2008 as the date of the
presidential election. The timing of the election is governed
by the law on presidential elections. Typically, the second
Sunday of March is election day in Russia, which in 2008,
would be March 9. However, under the law, there is a
provision that permits the election to be moved up a week if
the second Sunday in March follows a holiday. Since March 8
is International Women's Day, a holiday in Russia, March 2
will become the official date of the 2008 presidential
election when the order is published in Russia's state
newspaper, Rossiiskaya Gazeta. Publication must occur within
five days of the Federation Council vote.

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WHO CAN RUN FOR PRESIDENT?
--------------------------

3. (U) The parties that win seats in the upcoming State Duma
elections (December 2) will be allowed to nominate
presidential candidates without having to collect and submit
signatures to the Central Election Commission (CEC). Parties
that are not successful in the Duma elections are required to
collect no fewer than two million signatures. No more than
50,000 of the total number of signatures can be from one
subject (designated region) of the country. Signatures can
come from Russians living abroad but that number cannot
exceed 50,000. Supporters of self-nominated candidates can
apply to the CEC for registration on their candidate's
behalf. Any group of supporters must comprise no fewer than
500 members. These candidates also are required to submit no
less than 2 million signatures. Unlike the State Duma
elections, it is not possible to make a monetary deposit in
lieu of collecting signatures. Presidential candidates must
be citizens who are 35 years or older and have continuously
resided in the Russian Federation for no less than 10 years.
Announced presidential candidates to date include: Garry
Kasparov, Grigoriy Yavlinskiy, Gennadiy Zyuganov, Vladimir
Zhirinovskiy, Nikolay Kuryanovich, Vladimir Bukovskiy,
Mikhail Kasaynov and Boris Nemtsov.

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PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN TIMELINE
------------------------------

4. (U) Upon publication of the order establishing March 2,
2008 as the date of the election, self-nominated candidates
have 20 days to submit documents announcing their intention
to run for president, including a list of 500 members of the
group supporting their candidacy. Within five days, the CEC
will make its decision to register the group. Candidates
nominated by a political party have 25 days within which
representatives of the party must submit to the CEC their
party congress's nominee and a list of the candidate's
authorized representatives. Each registered party can
nominate one candidate. Within five days, the CEC will make
its decision to register representatives of the candidate
(those people who are authorized to work on behalf of the
candidate).

5. (U) Self-nominated candidates and the candidates of
non-parliamentary political parties must collect and submit
two million signatures of supporters to the CEC no earlier
than 80 days before the election (December 12) and no later
than 45 days before the election (January 16). Upon receipt
of the signatures, the CEC has 10 days to verify the list. If
more than five percent of signatures are found to be invalid,
the candidate is ineligible to run. Candidates can challenge
the CEC findings in court and the court must make its ruling

MOSCOW 00005529 002 OF 002


within five days. If less than 2 candidates are registered
to run for president, the election can be postponed for up to
60 days.

6. (U) According to CEC Chairman Churov, who attended the
Federation Council session, the nomination process will be
completed by December 25 and the registration process by
January 16. The official campaign, during which candidates
can actively campaign, including running advertising in the
mass media, will take place February 2 - February 29, 2008.

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COMMENT
-------

7. (SBU) The system of presidential elections is such that it
is difficult for independent candidates or candidates not
supported by parliamentary political parties to be
registered. The short deadline, the large number of
signatures required and the strict and selective standard
applied to verification of signatures are difficult barriers
for all but the most organized and established candidates to
overcome.


BURNS

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