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    7 independent candidates barred from Russian presidential polls

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    Russia's election authorities barred on Saturday seven independent candidates from running in presidential elections on March 2, 2008.

    MOSCOW, December 22 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's election authorities barred on Saturday seven independent candidates from running in presidential elections on March 2, 2008.

    Those who did not pass the first phase of registration include Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, who has spent the last 31 years in the United Kingdom and has Russian and British citizenship, and former lawmaker Nikolai Kuryanovich, who allegedly violated the nomination procedure.

    The other two independent presidential hopefuls were denied registration earlier.

    The Central Election Commission (CEC) registered the action groups of only two independent candidates, former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who heads the opposition Russian People's Democratic Union, and Democratic Party of Russia leader Andrei Bogdanov.

    CEC secretary Nikolai Konkin said a total of six contenders remain in the race, including four nominated by parties: leader of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, the ruling United Russia party's nominee Dmitry Medvedev, and the opposition SPS party's choice, ex-deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov.

    The independent hopefuls and Nemtsov are now to provide at least 2 million signatures in support of their nomination before January 16.

    The first three candidates put forward by the parties that made it into parliament at the December 2 elections do not have to raise signatures.

    The commission said it could register Zhirinovsky and Zyuganov, who filed their registration documents on Friday, next week. "Under law, we must consider the documents and make a decision within 10 days [after they were submitted]," Konkin said.

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