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United Russia to name presidential candidate mid-December

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The ruling United Russia party will nominate its candidate for next year's presidential elections at its convention in the middle of December, a party functionary said on Thursday.
MOSCOW, November 29 (RIA Novosti) - The ruling United Russia party will nominate its candidate for next year's presidential elections at its convention in the middle of December, a party functionary said on Thursday.

United Russia sources earlier said the convention would take place on December 20.

Valery Ryazansky, deputy head of the United Russia Duma faction, said that apart from the presidential nomination, the convention would discuss the outcome of the December 2 parliamentary elections and progress of the presidential election campaign.

The campaign formally kicked off in Russia on Wednesday as a government newspaper published an upper house resolution announcing the date of next year's polls, March 2, 2008.

Despite high popularity ratings, President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied that he will amend the Constitution to allow him to run for a third consecutive term.

Kremlin officials have said Putin will remain a "national leader" after leaving office to ensure the continuity of current policies, although there has been no official clarification as to what exactly this might entail.

Current first deputy premiers Sergei Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev have been named as the most likely successors to Putin, who is widely credited in Russia with bringing the country back from the brink of the abyss following the crisis-stricken Yeltsin era.

After Putin announced he would head the pro-Kremlin party United Russia's candidate list in December 2 parliamentary elections, there was speculation that he would seek to maintain his grip on power by becoming prime minister, transferring presidential power to the post.

But Putin denied the speculation in October: "If anyone thinks I am planning to make a move to the government and transfer fundamental powers there, this is not so. Russian presidential powers will not be reduced, as long as this is down to me."

A number of politicians have already announced their intention to run in the 2008 presidential elections. These include Gennady Zyuganov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leaders of Russia's two biggest political parties after United Russia - the Communist Party and the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party, respectively.

Other figures have spoken of plans to run include liberal Grigory Yavlinsky, former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, ex-deputy premier Boris Nemtsov and Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, as well as chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, who was jailed for five days following an opposition march at the weekend.

Independent candidates are compelled to file the necessary documents with the election commission by December 18. They are also obliged to raise at least two million signatures in support of their application.

Contenders to be nominated by political parties have to be registered before December 23, although those parties which make it in to parliament at Sunday's election will be spared the necessity of collecting signatures.

The results of Sunday's elections to the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, are expected no later than December 22.

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