Moscow, Nov 26: Russia's upper house of parliament named March 2, 2008, as the date of the next presidential election today, opening the way for candidates to start registering to run.
The Federation Council upper house voted unanimously to confirm the date. Under Russian law, the election has to happen around this time but the upper house sets the exact date. Its vote officially launches preparations for the election.
The election is seen as a watershed because President Vladimir Putin has said he will be stepping down and handing over to a successor in line with a constitutional ban on a head of state serving more than two consecutive terms.
''The date for the presidential election is March 2, 2008,'' Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov told reporters.
Russians and foreign investors have been preoccupied for months with two questions: Will Putin step down as he has said and if he does, who will he endorse to replace him? The official start of preparations for the vote means that those questions should be answered within days.
Under Russian law, anyone wishing to run for the presidency must submit an application to the Central Election Commission no later than 25 days after the election date is published in the official state gazette, which is expected on Wednesday.