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Russian journalist, celebrity Ksenia Sobchak launches presidential bid 

Moscow, Dec 27 (IANS) A Russian journalist, TV celebrity and socialite on Tuesday had her candidacy for the upcoming presidential election approved by the country’s Central Election Commission, a day after the electoral body had turned down the main opposition leader’s bid for the presidency.

Ksenia Sobchak, 36, is the daughter of Anatoly Sobchak _ former mentor of President Vladimir Putin _ and last October was nominated as a presidential candidate with the backing of the Civil Initiative party, led by former Russian Economy Minister Andrey Nechayev.

This support means that Sobchak can now begin canvassing the 100,000 signatures required to formalize her presidential quest and start her official campaign, instead of having to seek the 300,000 signatures required by independent candidates who are not backed by one of Russia’s top four parliamentary parties, Xinhua reported. 

On Monday, opposition leader Alexei Navalny had his presidential candidacy papers turned down by CEC officials on the basis of a five-year prison conviction that was later suspended, entailing a 10-year ban on holding public office that effectively bars him from the March 2018 presidential election. 

Navalny, Putin’s self-proclaimed “main rival,” responded by saying that the Russian constitution states “in black and white” that if you are not in prison on the day you register you can become a presidential candidate. 

Sobchak, meanwhile, described the blocking of Navalny’s candidacy by the CEC as a “regrettable injustice” but said he should refrain from boycotting the election and instead join her Civic Initiative platform. 

Sobchak added that Navalny’s boycott would only benefit Putin, who is seeking his fourth presidential term. 

The Kremlin has already asked the CEC to investigate Navalny’s latest statements calling for a “voters’ strike” and a presidential election boycott. 

Sobchak’s campaign slogan is “Against All,” and she has explained that her political position is to seek the protest vote. 

In a recent press conference, Putin apparently rebuffed Sobchak claiming she lacked a “positive political program” and only limited herself to criticize the Kremlin. 

Although the former socialite has promised to found a political party after these elections, some analysts have expressed their suspicion that Sobchak may be a Kremlin agent whose role is to neutralize the radical opposition while legitimizing the election. 

The daughter of the former mayor of Saint Petersburg has a declared backing of around 10 percent in polls, although her disapproval ratings are in excess of 50 percent. 

Sobchak is neither the only female candidate bidding for the 2018 race nor the first to submit her registration bid _ credit for the first instance goes to the head of the Women?s Dialogue party, Elena Semerikova, and the second, to crane operator Natalya Lisitsina, representing the leftist movement All-Russian United Labor Front.

According to political observers, Putin, 65, already has the backing of two main political parties _ the ruling conservative “United Russia” and the social democratic “A Just Russia” party.

If polling is to be believed, it seems highly probable that the popular Putin will be re-elected next March by about two-thirds of the ballot, therefore, remaining in the Kremlin until 2024.

On a more spiritual front, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus’, Kiril _ the head of the Russian Orthodox Church _ called today on all priests and faithful to vote in the coming elections. 

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