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    POLITICIANS LOATH WATCHING TELEVISED ELECTION DEBATES

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    MOSCOW, February 16, 2004. (RIA Novosti correspondent Larisa Saenko). Many politicians refuse to watch candidates for President of Russia debating free on TV.

    The election campaign has been going on for three days now, the elections date set for March 14.

    "I just change channels when they broadcast debates or election commercials. Sometimes I have to shift between many of them," said Viktor Alksnis, a member of the State Duma (low chamber of the Parliament) for Rodina (Homeland).

    He will vote for Sergey Glazyev, who is running for President as an independent candidate.

    Boris Nadezhdin, a leader of the new presidium of the Union of Right Forces, who supports another independent candidate Irina Khakamada, also avoids watching the election campaign on TV.

    "Honestly, I don't watch and I'm not going to. I know all of the participants in the debates. What new can they tell me? Well, except, maybe, candidate for LDPR Oleg Malyshkin," said he jokingly.

    Viktor Peshkov, the Secretary for elections of the Russian Communist Party's Central Committee, went so far as to avoid turning the TV-set on at all. "I don't watch TV. What for?" Peshkov added that he looked through the shorthand records of what had been on air to be posted on the election campaign. "Nothing interesting. There is no competitive spirit," said he after reading the records.

    Head of the Regional Studies Institute, political scientist Maxim Dianov sympathized with the TV viewers who were deprived of the 'hit' of the campaign, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who withdrew from the debates.

    Unfortunately, TV channels restrained LDPR's leader, who intended to campaign for Malyshkin, from participating in the debates.

    Mark Urnov, the Head of the Expertiza foundation, was brief when describing what he had seen: "What a boredom!"

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