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Russia sets presidential elections for March 2012

The Russian parliament has set a date for next year's presidential elections: March 4, 2012.

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Opposition activists hold a banner with portraits of (left to right) Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian Prime Minister Putin during an authorized rally at Pushkinskaya Square in Moscow, on March 13, 2011. (Andrey Smirnov/AFP/Getty Images)

The upper house of the Russian parliament has set the date of next year's presidential elections as March 4, 2012.

Once the decision has been published later Friday in the official parliamentary paper, the Ria Novosti news agency explained, parties will be allowed to nominate their candidates and the presidential campaign will officially be on.

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Vladimir Putin, former president and current prime minister, is the favorite to win, Ria Novosti said. He will receive the official nomination from his United Russia party this Sunday.

While there are signs that Putin's popularity is waning, said the Guardian, he is still "certain to win" on March 4:

Any political opposition has been sidelined or co-opted during his 11-year tenure as Russia's most powerful politician.

A Levada Centre poll released on Friday showed that if the vote was held this coming Sunday, just 31% of respondents would vote for Putin – a higher number than for any other candidate, but far from the majority.

If Putin is re-elected, he would also stand to enjoy a longer stay in power, said the BBC, after a 2008 amendment to Russia's constitution extended presidential terms from four to six years from 2012.

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The other confirmed candidates are Vladimir Zhirinovsky of the rightwing LDPR party, and Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov.

Other opposition parties have not yet announced whether they will participate.

Russia will hold parliamentary elections on December 4, 2011. Putin's United Russia is the frontrunner in those too, said the BBC.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/russia/111125/russia-sets-presidential-elections-march-2012