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Ksenia Sobchak (Wikipedia, photo by Evgeniy Isaev)
Moscow

Russian reality TV star to challenge Putin in March election

A reality TV star-turned-politician is challenging President Vladimir Putin. Ksenia Sobchak told CBS News she will be a protest candidate in the coming elections, running for the nation’s highest office this coming March.

Published: January 16, 2018, 9:18 am

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    “I don’t want people to vote personally for me,” Sobchak said. “I want them to vote against the system.” Alexei Navalny, the country’s other opposition figure, will not be allowed on to the ballot and Sobchak will fill the void.

    Sobchak said she saw Navalny as a “friend and ally” and expressed hope that he would support her. Earlier she had said that if he managed to get on to the ballot then she would be ready to withdraw her candidacy.

    In an interview with The Independent Sobchak’s protest rival Alexei Navalny had dismissed her candidacy as “unserious”.

    In order for Sobchak to get on to the ballot, she will need to collect 300 000 signatures from Russian citizens. Shortly before she announced her candidacy, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said she “fulfilled all criteria” to stand, as she has no criminal record.

    Sobchak’s father, Anatoly, had been both Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev’s law professor at Leningrad State University. He later became the mayor of St. Petersburg. Putin had helped Anatoly flee Russia when he was wanted on corruption charges.

    Sobchak has stated that she considers Crimea to be part of Ukraine. Considering the overwhelming support for the Crimean reunification among the Russian population, it is not exactly a vote winner.

    Sobchak has also called Russians “human trash” because in the first two decades of the communist era, the “country underwent a vast quantity of human purges, when the best of the best were destroyed”.

    Again, her pronouncements are not something designed to attract the voters, as it conveys that Sobchak thinks that Russians are made up of genetically inferior material. It is hard to think of a better way to insult a nation.

    Apart from her politically awkward statements, she regulalry gives advice about men, the British education system, nannies, literature, blockchain and BitCoin, kung fu, psychology, fitness, and contrasting hot-cold showers – “Ladies, it keeps your skin in shape”.

    The campaign website of President Vladimir Putin is already up and running at putin2018.ru. Elena Shmeleva, co-chair of Putin’s campaign office, told Russian news agency TASS that plans were afoot to make his website as informative and convenient as possible.

    “We want it to contain a lot of factual information related to the current projects and those projects Vladimir Putin was involved in,” she said. “We are also planning to post information on the authorized agents.”

    The incumbent Russian president will be running in the coming presidential election scheduled for March 18, 2018, as an independent candidate. He also needs to collect at least 300 000 citizens’ signatures to run for his fourth term. The drive to collect signatures kicked off on January 5.

    According to Andrey Kondrashov, a spokesman for Putin’s election team, more than 711 000 signatures were already registered on January 15. The election team promised however that the signature collection drive would be continued beyond those needed to run.

    The signatures will have to be submitted to the Central Election Commission for verification.

    According to a survey by All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center, Sobchak, 36, candidate of the Civil Initiative party, would only get 1 percent of the vote. During the survey conducted over January 8-10, the respondents were asked to indicate whom they would support if the presidential election was held this Sunday. Some 89.8 percent of respondents said they would definitely not vote for Sobchak.

    The majority, around 74 percent of Russians, are ready to vote for Putin in the election.

    The Communist Party’s candidate Pavel Grudinin attracted 7 percent of the votes, while 4.7 percent of respondents said they would support leader of the Liberal Democratic Party Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

    Russia’s voter turnout is expected to reach 67 percent, according to the survey.

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