Russia's ex-PM faces presidential election ban

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Moscow, Jan 24 (UNI) Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) today said it had sufficient evidence not to register former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov as a candidate for presidential poll, scheduled to be held on March 2.

''The final verification of voter signatures in support of the ex- Prime Minister revealed that the percentage of invalid and false signatures in Kasyanov's support is 13.38 per cent,'' the CEC secretary Nikolai Konkin said in an interview with Russian state Channel One television.

''As a result, the number of valid signatures submitted by the candidate was less than two million. It is the verification results and results of the final report that show whether registration should be denied,'' he said.

Under the Russian law, no more than 5 per cent of signatures in support of a candidate can be false or forged.

The latest opinion polls suggest an unassailable lead for President Vladimir Putin's chosen successor Dmitry Medvedev, who is chairman of the gas giant Gazprom. Mr Kasyanov has been polling about 1 per cent.

Russian prosecutors have already announced that they had opened an investigation into allegations that Mr Kasyanov had been involved in forging a significant proportion of the two million signatures needed to qualify.

Meanwhile, the candidacy of another independent presidential hopeful,Mr Andrei Bogdanov, has been registered by the Central Election Commission.

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