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First Russian Candidate Registered

February 8, 2000

MOSCOW (AP) _ Russian election officials today registered the first candidate for next month’s presidential vote, putting the name of Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov on the ballot.

Recent polls show Zyuganov trailing far behind acting President Vladimir Putin, though he is expected to receive more votes than other candidates in the March 26 election. Zyuganov came in second in the 1996 presidential election, losing to incumbent Boris Yeltsin in a runoff.

Zyuganov has a solid support base of about 25 percent of the population, mostly pensioners, according to recent polls. Putin, who stepped in when Yeltsin resigned on Dec. 31, has an approval rating higher than 50 percent.

The communist leader predicted today that the campaign would be unfair because some candidates had easy access to the media while others were denied it _ an indirect reference to state-controlled television channels, which tend to give Putin favorable coverage.

He also warned that the election results could be falsified, and he repeated a claim that the results of the December parliamentary elections had been fixed in six regions of the country.

``The current authorities are not capable of running elections honestly,″ Zyuganov said, according to the Interfax news agency.

The commission approved Zyuganov’s property and income declarations in a unanimous vote, said Artyom Golev, a spokesman with the Central Election Commission. It also approved the necessary 500,000 signatures submitted in support of Zyuganov.

Twenty-nine people have announced their intention to run. Prominent candidates include Grigory Yavlinsky, the leader of the liberal Yabloko party, and ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, but no one is expected to pose a major challenge to Putin or Zyuganov.

Putin’s supporters submitted 575,000 signatures Monday to put his name on the ballot. The committee must check Putin’s signatures before formally registering him as a candidate.

Update hourly