Former chess world champ Kasparov enters Russian presidential race
MOSCOW -- The former world chess champion Garry Kasparov entered Russia's presidential race on Sunday, elected overwhelmingly as the candidate for the country's beleaguered opposition coalition.
Kasparov has been a driving force behind the coalition, which has united liberals, leftists and nationalists in opposition to President Vladimir Putin. He received 379 of 498 votes at a national congress held in Moscow by the Other Russia coalition, coalition spokeswoman Lyudmila Mamina told The Associated Press.
Kasparov's place on the March ballot was not assured. His candidacy still needs to be registered and is likely to be blocked.
Even if he were allowed to run, Kasparov would not be expected to pose a major challenge to whichever candidate wins Putin's backing.
"The goal of the Other Russia is not winning elections, but to have an election," Kasparov told AP Television News, speaking in English on the sidelines of the congress. "We're trying to force the regime to accept our rights to participate in free and fair elections, to agitate the Russian population and Russian public to support our ideas."
Kasparov argues that Putin's extraordinary public support hinges on the Kremlin's full control over the electoral process and national television.
With all major political decisions in Russia now being made behind closed doors in the Kremlin, Kasparov stresses the importance for the Other Russia of following democratic procedures.
In electing Kasparov on Sunday, the coalition chose among six candidates who had won at least one regional primary in recent months.
Kasparov was followed in Sunday's voting by Sergei Gulyayev, a former member of St. Petersburg's Legislative Assembly, who received 59 votes, and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov with 18, Mamina said.
The Other Russia also chose Kasparov to be one of three candidates to head the coalition's list in parliamentary elections in December. The others are former Central Bank chairman Viktor Gerashchenko and Eduard Limonov, a provocative writer who heads the banned National Bolshevik Party.
The coalition, however, has virtually no chance of participating in the election for the State Duma, the lower house of parliament. Only registered political parties can take part and none of the political movements that make up the Other Russia qualify.
State Duma seats are distributed among parties according to the percentage of the vote they receive.
In putting forward its candidates on Sunday, the Other Russia got a jump on United Russia, the main pro-Kremlin party, which opens its two-day congress on Monday. United Russia also is expected to pick its "troika" of candidates to head the party list.
Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, a leading party member, said Sunday that Putin could be considered for the top spot. Putin is constitutionally required to step down when his second term ends next spring, and uncertainty over his future plans has added to the current political uneasiness.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press