Communists to challenge Putin, running against capitalism but not the Ukraine war
Nikolai Kharitonov, left, a lawmaker of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, shows his candidate ID while speaking to journalists at Russia's Central Election Committee in Moscow, on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024. Kharitonov was registered as the Communist Party's candidate against President Vladimir Putin in the March election. At right is Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov. | AP

MOSCOW—Russia’s national elections commission on Tuesday registered Nikolai Kharitonov, candidate of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, to challenge President Vladimir Putin in the March election.

Kharitonov, 75, joins two other candidates who were approved to run last week. At a launch event in Moscow, he said the CPRF’s campaign slogan would be, “We’ve played capitalism, and that’s enough!”

Kharitonov is a member of parliament and has opposed some of Putin’s domestic policies but not Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which the CPRF endorses, although some of its MPs have individually protested.

He was nominated as his party’s presidential candidate at a congress in Moscow in December. “Kharitonov’s candidacy was supported by an overwhelming majority of congress participants in a secret ballot,” fellow CPRF member Alexander Yushchenko told Interfax news agency.

As the party’s candidate against Putin in 2004, Kharitonov won just under 14% of the national vote.

A fan of martial arts, Kharitonov managed a collective farm in Siberia during the Soviet era. Following the end of socialism in the USSR, he joined the Agrarian Party, one of the political groups that emerged from the destruction of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Farming issues remain an interest of his. This week at a CPRF conference, Kharitonov praised the collectivization of Soviet agriculture in the 1930s as a “correct reform that allowed us to resolve the food problem on the eve of a great war,” referring to Hitler’s invasion in 1941.

Looking to the work ahead of him, he said Saturday, “Our task is to consolidate the people during the election campaign so that there is victory, victory on all fronts.”

The CPRF, led since 1993 by Gennady Zyuganov, is the official opposition in the Russian Duma, although on many policies, it supports Putin’s party, United Russia. Communist presidential candidates typically get the second-highest vote tally in years that the party chooses a candidate.

Kharitonov is not the only candidate running against the president. The election commission last week also approved Leonid Slutsky of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party and Vladislav Davankov of the New People Party for the March 15-17 vote. Both parties are largely supportive in parliament of legislation backed by Putin’s United Russia.

A Russian politician calling for peace in Ukraine was barred from standing last month. Former television journalist Yekaterina Duntsova declared her intention to run as an independent but had her candidacy rejected by the commission. An appeal to the Supreme Court also failed.

Duntsova’s application was turned down for supposed “mistakes in documents,” though many speculate it was her anti-war platform and declared intention to free all political prisoners that earned her the chop. Putin’s critics say no one opposed to the war in Ukraine is being allowed to run.

Government officials say the president will win re-election because he enjoys genuine support across society, with opinion poll ratings of about 80%, and not because of any unfair electoral manipulation.

Putin has been in power for 24 years, including an eight-year interlude as prime minister. If he wins in March—as he is essentially guaranteed to do—Putin will be in power until at least 2030.

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