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Against Putin, seven candidates and one glaring absence

Russia President Vladimir Putin

Moscow, Russia | AFP | Seven candidates are lined up against Vladimir Putin in a Russian presidential election next month that he is all but guaranteed to win, extending his Kremlin term to 2024 with a fourth term in office.

His competitors include a former reality TV star and a director of a fruit farm, but Putin’s primary political opponent will be absent from the ballot.

– Alexei Navalny: elephant in the room –

Alexei Navalny, a charismatic anti-corruption blogger turned opposition politician who has organised several large anti-Kremlin protests, has been barred from running in the March election.

Russia’s electoral commission rejected his candidacy application because of a criminal conviction which Navalny says is politically motivated.

The 41-year-old is widely regarded as Vladimir Putin’s principal opponent and has a loyal support base.

Navalny has called for a boycott of the vote in protest against his candidacy being banned.

– Pavel Grudinin: communist millionaire –

Nicknamed the “strawberry king”, 57-year-old Grudinin is the Russian Communist Party’s surprise candidate.

Director of a former state fruit farm which he turned into a profitable business, Grudinin is Putin’s most popular competitor. Polls show seven percent of Russians are ready to put him in the Kremlin.

He has been vilified in the pro-Kremlin press for his alleged wealth and foreign bank accounts. He has denounced “constant pressure” from the authorities.

While openly criticising some of the government’s policies, Grudinin stops short of personally attacking Putin.

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