Medvedev's presidential rating reaches 79 per cent

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Moscow, Dec 27 (UNI) As many as 79 per cent of the voters would vote for Mr Dmitry Medvedev, the presidential candidate of United Russia party, if presidential elections were held next weekend, a public opinion poll reveals.

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov and Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky would be supported by 9 per cent voters each, and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov would get only 2 per cent of the votes, the poll conducted by the Yury Levada Analytical Center between December 21 and 25 said.

The presidential elections are scheduled to be held on March 2.

Union of Right Forces (SPS) party's Boris Nemtsov yesterday withdrew from the presidential race and called on other opposition candidates to follow suit if authorities do not guarantee equal campaigning possibilities to every candidate.

''At present, two democratic opposition candidates have remained-- former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and me. I believe there shall be a single candidate from the democratic opposition.

Therefore, I have decided to withdraw from the presidential campaign,'' Mr Nemtsov said in a statement.

He also urged Mr Kasyanov and Mr Zyuganov to demand that President Vladimir Putin-backed candidate Mr Medvedev participates in election debates, and authorities provide equal time to nation-wide TV channels for all the candidates and refrain from using the so-called ''administrative resource'' to back their candidate.

''In case authorities refuse from meeting these conditions, there will be serious grounds for you not to participate in the election,'' he said.

Mr Nemtsov, whose party failed to win seats in Duma parliamentary elections, and Mr Kasyanov have to collect two million signatures to register as a presidential candidate.

Mr Medvedev, Mr Zyuganov and Mr Zhirinovsky do not have to collect the signatures, as they were nominated by the parties represented in the State Duma, the lower house of Parliament.

UNI

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