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    RUSSIA'S CEC TO CONSIDER QUESTION OF PUTIN'S REGISTRATION AS CANDIDATE TO PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA

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    MOSCOW, February 2. /RIA Novosti correspondent/ -- On Monday Russia's Central Election Commission (CEC) is to consider the question of registration of Vladimir Putin as a candidate to the post of president of Russia.

    The representatives of the initiative group of voters which backed the incumbent president's self-nomination for a second presidential term submitted signatures in Putin's support to the Russian Federation's CEC back on January 23. A total of 2.5 million signatures were submitted to the CEC. "The number of the signatures collected in support of Putin in the regions is in excess of 7 million", the representatives of the initiative group told RIA Novosti.

    During ten days the CEC specialists checked 600,000 signatures picked by chance. If the number of invalid signatures does not exceed 25 per cent of the checked ones the CEC decides to register the candidate.

    Vladimir Putin said about his intention to be re-elected for the second term on December 18, 2003 in a live TV call-up. He decided not to run for re-election as a candidate of a political party but opted for self-nomination. A meeting of the group of voters set up to support Putin's self-nomination was held in Moscow on December 22, and the group was registered by the CEC on December 24.

    Today seven people are contenders for the Presidency. Two candidates - LDRP member Oleg Malyshkin, and Nikolai Kharitonov, put forward by the KPRF, have already been registered by the CEC as the representatives of the parties represented in the State Duma (the parliament's lower chamber). The other five contenders collected at least 2 million signatures of voters in their support and submitted them to the CEC. As it is expected, the final list of the candidates to the Presidency will be made public by February 8.

    The elections of Russia's president have been scheduled for March 14.

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