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LDPR candidate Oleg Malyshkin
Oleg Malyshkin, the little-known nominee from Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s ultra-nationalist LDPR party, has become the first officially registered presidential candidate. On Thursday the Central Election Commission presented him with a candidate’s certificate. The Liberal-Democratic Party picked Malyshkin, 52, as its presidential candidate at a party congress held at the end of December, after its leader, the flamboyant Vladimir Zhirinovsky, notorious for his ultra-nationalist views and outlandish behaviour, bowed out of the race. Malyshkin only became known to wider public a few weeks ago after he started a fight during a live televised debate on NTV during the recent parliamentary election campaign. Until recently he was Zhirinovsky’s chief security guard and held the post of deputy chairman of the party. After the incident in the television studio NTV severed an agreement with LDPR offering the party slots in televised debates. Zhirinovsky then sent a letter to the NTV director general apologisng for his colleague’s behaviour, assuring him that he had not only fired Malyshkin but had also sent him back ''to the place of his permanent abode in the Rostov Region''. However, on Thursday Zhirinovsky appeared on TV, smiling broadly as he congratulated his fellow party-member and introduced him to journalists. Malyshkin, a former footballer and boxer, smiled awkwardly as his boss shook his hand, patted him on the back and even kissed him on the cheek. ''Here is the first candidate,'' Zhirinovsky rejoiced, introducing his colleague to the press. ''His first interview as a candidate,'' the LDPR leader announced, pushing Malyshkin towards the cameras. ''Many thanks to the party, to Vladimir Volfovich and to all our Russian citizens. I think we will fulfill with honour all these tasks, the programme that we have always pursued and which we have always been fulfilling,'' the candidate said, adding that he will certainly take part in any televised debates should they take place. The journalists, who know only too well how Malyshkin participates in live debates, politely asked Zhirinovsky whether his protege would once again punch other candidates in the face to prove his case. But Zhirinovsky seemed too busy to heed such questions. ''Let the candidate speak, ask him questions, why do you keep asking me?'' the LDPR leader snapped. But Malyshkin remained terse. ''Whom exactly will you criticize?'' the journalists charged. ''Everyone! Everyone makes mistakes.'' ''And what about President Putin? And what is it that you disapprove of in the president’s policy?'' ''Well, you need to be tougher in carrying out your politics. He is somewhat mild. For instance, he has begun administrative divisions, he should continue, being tougher,'' an uncertain Malyshkin said. ''As to privatization, those who broke the law must be punished…'' ''Come on, look into the camera,'' Zhirinovsky exhorted his colleague, turning him so that the cameras could catch a better glimpse of him. ''We will strangle both Gerashchenko and Kharitonov and will give Putin a proper scare – we will ensure there is a run-off,'' Zhirinovsky shouted. ''We will prove that the LDPR is not the party of a single person,'' he continued, adding that even if there is no run-off, Malyshkin would come second to Putin anyway, winning at least 10 per cent of the vote, more than Zhirinovsky himself won in the 1991, 1996 and 2000 elections. Malyshkin, 52, was elected to the State Duma in the Dec. 7 parliamentary elections. He is the former head of an administrative district in southern Russia's Rostov region. While a district chief, Malyshkin was notorious for his tough methods of regulating food prices. Local people remember an incident when Malyshkin went to a grain elevator, accompanied by a submachine-gun squad. The deadline for registration in this March’s election has now passed and there are currently 10 declared candidates. They include Communist Nikolai Kharitonov; liberal Irina Khakamada; Sergei Glazyev and Viktor Gerashchenko, both of the new nationalist-socialist Motherland bloc; and Sergei Mironov, speaker of the upper house, who says he is running not to challenge Putin but to support him. All of the hopefuls except Malyshkin and Kharitonov, who were fielded by parties that won Duma seats on the nationwide ballot, will have to collect 2 million signatures to be registered in the presidential race. The deadline for submitting those signatures is 28 January
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