Six Russian politicians, includingincumbent President Vladimir Putin, will run for the country's next presidency on Sunday. But Putin is widely tipped to win a sweeping victory in the race.
Following is a snapshot of the five very long-shot opponents toPutin in the March 14 poll. They appear in the order in which theyare listed on the ballot. None has an approval rating of more than10 percent, while Putin's stands somewhere between 60 and 80 percent.
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Sergei Glazyev, 43, an independent candidate, is a State Duma deputy. As a doctor of economics, professor and Associate Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, he has published more than 130economics papers.
A former Communist with a Soviet-era doctorate in economics, hehas a strong belief that privatized former state properties -- particularly the lucrative oil companies -- should be handed back "to the people."
Glazyev admits that his Motherland coalition received help fromthe Kremlin in the December parliamentary elections in a strategicmove aimed at building an obedient nationalist bloc in parliament.
It did its job by all but eliminating the Communist Party from Russian politics. But his unexpectedly strong showing also unnerved some Putin aides.
Glazyev's party is now in upheaval and its pro-Putin loyalty appear to be splitting.
Some suspect that Glazyev may turn out to be a front-runner in the 2008 presidential vote to replace Putin should his nationalistrhetoric pull in enough votes Sunday.
Glazyev was born in the city of Zaporozhye, Ukraine, on Jan. 1,1961 and graduated from the Moscow State University in 1983 with adegree in economics and cybernetics.
He got a master's degree and doctorate in 1986 and 1990 after completing his graduate work at the Central Economics and Mathematical Institute.
He worked as first deputy chairman of the Russian Federation Committee for Foreign Economic Relations, Minister for Foreign Economic Relations, chairman of the Duma Committee on Economic Policy and head of the Federation Council information and analysisdepartment.
Glazyev was the chairman of the Duma's Economic Policy and Entrepreneurship Committee from January 2000 to April 2003.
On May 31, 2003, he was elected co-chairman of the Russia's Regions party. Half a year later, the Rodina (Homeland) bloc headed by Glazyev and Dmitry Rogozin won 10 percent of votes and entered the Duma. Glazyev acted as leader of the Rodina faction inthe Duma.
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Oleg Malyshkin, 52, is a Duma deputy of the faction of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) led by ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
Born in the Rostov region on April 7, 1951, Malyshkin graduatedfrom the Polytechnic Institute in Novocherkassk as a mining engineer. He was a professional boxer and soccer player.
In 1997, he was elected head of the administration of the Tatsinsky district in the Rostov region, and had ruled the district until 2001. He joined the LDPR in 1991 and became the first deputy chairman of the LDPR in 2001. Between 2001 and 2003, he worked as chief of the party's central administration.
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Sergei Mironov, 51, speaker of the parliament's upper house, isa close ally of Putin and has said that his participation in the poll aimed to help Putin by raising the vote rate.
Mironov launched his campaign by admitting that he actually supported Putin but was only running to assure that Russia looked like a democratic state.
Mironov's political career began in Putin's native city of Saint Petersburg and is linked closely to the Russian leader.
Mironov rushed to become the first candidate to register for the vote, reportedly to make sure that at least someone was running against Putin so that the election would be declared valid.This won him the "stooge" epithet from the Moscow investment bank.
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Irina Khakamada, 48, another independent candidate, is a doctorof economics and assistant professor.
Khakamada is the only candidate to be identified as "temporarily unemployed" on the ballot after losing her seat in December's parliamentary elections. Her campaign is financed by a top manager in the troubled Yukos oil company that has been on Putin's hit list.
Born on April 13, 1955, she graduated from the economy department of the Moscow International University. In 1980, she began to work as a junior researcher for the Research Institute ofState Planning of the Russian Federation. For five years beginningfrom 1985, she worked at the Technical College of the Likhachev machine-building factory.
In 1989, Khakamada began her business career. In 1993, she was elected Duma deputy as an independent candidate and was re-electedin 1995.
In October 1997, Khakamada left the Duma to head the government's Committee for the Support and Development of Small Business, which was dissolved in September 1998. Between August and Decemberof 1999, she acted as president of the Institute of Small BusinessDevelopment.
After being re-elected into the Duma in December 1999, Khakamada worked in the Duma Committee on Budgeting and Taxation from January to June of 2000 and was elected vice-speaker of the Duma.
She was a co-chairperson of the Union of Right Forces (SPS), which failed to gain seats in the Duma in the 2003 parliamentary elections.
She is married and has a son and a daughter.
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Nikolai Kharitonov, 55, a doctor of economics, is a deputy of the faction of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF)in Russia's Sate Duma or lower house of parliament. He is also a co-leader of the People's Patriot Union and chairman of the Agro-Industrial Union.
He is widely expected to come in second place but does not truly represent the Communist Party because he was a leader of oneof its offshoots called the Agrarians.
Communist veteran leader Gennady Zyuganov folded his cards after badly losing in two previous elections and the party asked Kharitonov to run in his place.
Kharitonov appears to be trying to promote his image as a nationalist ahead of the 2008 vote. He recently used live nationaltelevision to accuse Putin of employing too few ethnic Russians inthe government.
Born in the Novosibirsk region on Oct. 30, 1948, Kharitonov graduated from the Novosibirsk Agriculture Institute in 1972 and from the Academy of National Economy under the government of Russian Federation in 1995. From 1972 to 1994, he worked as an agronomist and a sovkhoz director in the Novosibirsk region.
In 1990, Kharitonov became a deputy of the Russian Federation Assembly and later joined the agrarian faction of the Supreme Council. He has been a member of Russia's parliament and a member of the Duma's Agrarian Committee since 1993.