Communist leader may pull out of election

Updated: 2008-01-24 07:29

The head of Russia's biggest opposition party is considering dropping out of the race against Kremlin front-runner Dmitry Medvedev to be the next president, a newspaper reported yesterday.

Opinion polls indicate Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov has little chance of winning the March 2 election but if he were to pull out it would create an awkward image problem for the Kremlin by making the contest look one-sided.

The Vedomosti newspaper said it had been told by several members of the Communist Party's ruling Central Committee that 63-year-old Zyuganov was seriously contemplating taking his name off the ballot paper.

The newspaper's sources said many in the party felt it was pointless taking part because the election would be unfair. Zyuganov has repeatedly complained about a pro-Kremlin slant in coverage on the main television stations.

Officials deny any bias and say they are committed to holding a free and fair vote.

Analysts say Zyuganov is also concerned that a weak showing in the presidential election could later leave him vulnerable to a challenge from rivals for the party leadership.

Medvedev, a 42-year-old ally of outgoing President Vladimir Putin, is expected to dominate the election. His campaign has been buoyed by an endorsement from the popular Putin, which makes his victory a near-certainty.

An opinion poll published on Tuesday by pollster VTSIOM gave Medvedev just over 60 percent support. Nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky was in second place with 7.5 percent and Zyuganov had 6.1 percent.

Agencies

(China Daily 01/24/2008 page12)