Kasyanov: Presidential Candidate

On June 2, Mikhail Kasyanov’s party, the Russian Popular-Democratic Union, selected him as their candidate for the March 2008 presidential election. Around 500 delegates selected the former Russian Prime Minister at a congress that could give some lessons to the Kremlin on openness and the democratic system. Many Other Russia leaders attended, including Garry Kasparov of the United Civil Front, Eduard Limonov of the National Bolsheviks, Lyudmila Alekseeva of the Moscow Helsinki Group, and Boris Nemtsov of the Union of Right Forces (who spoke on his own).

Kasyanov spoke powerfully based on his party’s program. His speech also marked a shift to blaming Putin personally for the loss of democracy in Russia. His topics ranged from electing judges to restoring free education and health care, and to the need to boost the economy beyond the energy sector. Perhaps Kasyanov’s biggest promise was to destroy the Gazprom monopoly.

Kasparov spoke for 15 minutes and praised the nomination. He indicated that now there are two hats in the ring. “One, a man of flesh and blood selected democratically. The other a weak shadow wandering the halls of the Kremlin.” In July, the Other Russia will begin a process to select a united candidate in the fall of 2007.

Meanwhile, Putin is again talking about “keeping busy” after his supposedly final term runs out. It still isn’t clear whether or not he will do this by mutilating the Constitution and taking a third term or by ruling from behind the throne of his hand-picked successor. The various Kremlin factions don’t know the answer to this yet either, making internal warfare inevitable.