One of the parties that has won Parliamentary elections last week said it would not put forth a candidate for the March presidential elections – good news for the presidential party.
Sergei Mironov, head of the Just Russia party, said "I can say with 99 percent certainty that our party won't nominate its own candidate but will make a decision on supporting one or another of the other aspirants," according to RIA-Novosti news agency.
Just Russia, which won 8 percent of the vote in this week's parliamentary elections, occupies peculiar territory in Russia's political geography because it vigorously backs President Vladimir Putin, but expresses opposition to United Russia, the pro-Putin party that dominates parliament.
Mironov ran for president in 2004, but told supporters to vote for Putin in that election.
Explaining his party's position today, he was quoted by the ITAR-Tass news agency as saying that this time, "I believe that a new president should have as many supporters and as much support as possible, including political parties."
Putin is constitutionally barred from seeking a third consecutive term in the March 2 election, but in recent months he has clearly indicated he wants to continue to exercise significant power.
He has raised the prospect of becoming prime minister and his supporters have proposed he become a "national leader" of unspecified authority.
The likelihood of either of those coming to fruition would be increased by a strong victory of United Russia's candidate. Without a candidate of their own, Just Russia supporters could be inclined to back United Russia's candidate largely because that candidate would have Putin's imprimatur.
Parties have until Dec. 23 to nominate candidates for the presidential election.
Others who have declared their intention to run include Grigory Yavlinsky, head of the liberal Yabloko Party; Mikhail Kasyanov, who was Putin's first prime minister but then went into opposition; and Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion who leads a loose opposition coalition that has conducted an array of protest rallies this year, many of which were violently broken up by police.
The Communist Party is to decide on its candidate next week. It is likely to be party leader Gennady Zyuganov, party central committee deputy chairman Ivan Melnikov said, according to the Interfax news agency.