Communist leader says may quit Russian election race

MOSCOW – Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, the head of Russia’s biggest opposition party, may decide not to run in the March 2 presidential election, Itar-Tass news agency quoted him as saying on Thursday.

“We are considering such an option, but we still hope for the common sense of the authorities,” Tass quoted Zyuganov as telling the agency in an interview during a visit to China.

“I treat this matter seriously.”

Opinion polls indicate Zyuganov has little chance of beating Kremlin frontrunner Dmitry Medvedev in the election but if he were to pull out it would create an awkward image problem for the Kremlin by making the contest look one-sided.

Zyuganov says the authorities are dodging his challenge to hold debates with Medvedev in the run-up to the vote.

“No one is eager to lead a normal dialogue, to meet live on television,” he said. “It (the election) is yet again turning into a squabble and a scandal.”

Some analysts speculate however that Zyuganov, 63, is concerned that a weak showing in the presidential election could later leave him vulnerable to a challenge from rivals for the party leadership.

Western governments have urged Russia to hold a fair election after observers said a parliamentary vote last year was skewed by Kremlin interference. Officials deny any bias and say they are committed to holding a free and fair vote.

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