Sun, Nov 04, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Russia to set poll date amid Putin controversy

AFP AND NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , MOSCOW

Russian President Vladimir Putin stands in the office in his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on Friday.

PHOTO: AP

Russia will set the date for presidential elections before the end of the month, the president of the upper house of parliament Sergei Mironov said in an interview with the newspaper Kommersant published yesterday.

"In line with the Russian constitution the Council of the Federation will set the date of the presidential election on Nov. 26," he said.

The paper said the vote would probably be held on March 2. The campaign for the presidential poll will start five days after the publication of the council's decision.

Under the Constitution, Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot stand for a third term when his current term ends early next year.

Mironov said there was "no legal base to extend Vladimir Putin's powers. It is very late to change the Constitution," he added.

Putin announced on Oct. 1 that he would run for parliament in December heading the United Russia list and have a "realistic" shot at becoming prime minister, dropping a political bombshell that many thought could herald a fundamental change in the way Russia is governed.

Mironov said a victory of the United Russia party in the Dec. 2 elections to the State Duma "will give Vladimir Putin a moral right to take a more active part in domestic politics or to influence in a certain way foreign politics."

Putin has repeatedly said he will not change the Constitution for his own purposes, but insists that he will continue to be useful to the Russian people without saying how.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe announced Friday that it would send a skeleton crew of observers to cover Russia's December parliamentary elections, after Moscow said it would allow only 70 observers, compared with the 400 sent for parliamentary elections in 2003, said the organization's office responsible for monitoring elections.

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