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    WHO'S RUNNING FOR RUSSIA'S TOP?

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    MOSCOW, February 8, 2004. (RIA Novosti correspondent Nikolai Makarov) - Russia's Central Election Commission is finishing presidential candidate registration today. The final number of hopefuls will be clear within a few hours.

    Irina Khakamada and Sergei Glazyev are in for registration today. Each has a good chance, Alexander Veshnyakov, commission president, said to newsmen, yesterday.

    If the two qualify, they will bring the list of federal presidential hopefuls to a total seven. Liberan Democratic candidate Oleg Malyshkin and Nikolai Kharitonov, his Communist rival, were registered the first, last month. Both were nominated by parliamentary parties, and so did not need to collect two million public signatures each.

    Incumbent Vladimir Putin was registered, February 2. He is running as an independent, nonpartisan candidate, and offered two million and a half signatures.

    Speaker Sergei Mironov of the Federation Council, parliament's upper house, was registered February 6 as Party of Life nominee, and Ivan Rybkin the next day. There is a controversy round his nomination-the commission suspects forged signatures, and has forwarded his file to the federal Prosecutor General's office. Mr. Veshnyakov does not rule out the Supreme Court eventually removing Ivan Rybkin from the race. Rybkin was once federal Security Council Secretary.

    Business tycoons Vladimir Bryntsalov and Anzor Aksentyev withdrew their nominations. Victor Geraschenko, recent Central Bank president, now Russian Regions party nominee, refused to collect signatures of his public supporters, so the commission did not register him. The unlucky hopeful appealed to the Supreme Court, which turned down his plea to support the commission point.

    The presidential poll has been appointed for March 14.

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