Rightist Group Promote Belarus Dictator Lukashenko as Russian Presidential Candidate


A Russian ultra-right movement has launched a campaign to propose Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko as a candidate for Russia's 2008 presidential election, the Radio Free Europe reported on Wednesday.

Aleksei Kanurin, an activist from Russia's Movement Against Illegal Immigration, has recently inaugurated a campaign called "Lukashenko-2008" and has launched a website to promote the idea.

Kanurin said Lukashenko has not been consulted about the campaign.

"We do not need such a consultation, our task is to create the situation in which people, including Aleksander Lukashenko, will have a choice," Kanurin added.

Asked how Lukashenko, who does not have Russian citizenship, could be allowed to run in the 2008 presidential election in Russia, Kanurin said it is a "technical issue."

"Representatives of this movement have not yet contacted the president's press office to talk about their initiative or their priorities and goals. That is why I personally do not have a firm opinion about this initiative," Lukashenko's spokesman, Pavel Lohki, said.

Lukashenko, who has been president since 1994, recently told Reuters that, health permitting, he has no intention of abandoning politics.

That has prompted a new wave of speculation on whether the 53-year-old president will run for a fourth term in Belarus's 2011 presidential election.

Relations between Russia and Belarus have deteriorated in recent months after a row over energy payments. The row resulted in an oil pipeline to the EU being shut down for a few days at the beginning of New Year.

Under the Russian Constitution, President Vladimir Putin is barred from running for a third term in office. He has suggested that he will back a successor as the election draws near.

The two current frontrunners are seen as Sergei Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev, both first deputy prime ministers. Some analysts have spoken about the possibility of another candidate, favored by Putin, emerging closer to the vote.

Whichever candidate gets Putin's support is likely to win because of the Russian president's widespread popularity and the Kremlin's control over much of the media.