Days after reports that acting President Vladimir Putin failed to claim a house on his campaign registration forms, Vladimir Zhirinovsky was allowed back into the elections after being thrown out Feb. 25 for not reporting his son's two-room Moscow apartment.
The report of Putin's St. Petersburg house appeared March 1 in Kommersant daily newspaper. On March 6, the Supreme Court board of appeals overran the Feb. 25 Central Election Commission (CEC) decision to exclude Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), from the election.
Andrei Ryabov, a political analyst for the Moscow-based Carnegie Center think tank, said that after Kommersant published news that Putin had a house in St. Petersburg, "the CEC had to allow Zhirinovsky back."
"The CEC and the Supreme Court, who are very close, decided that it would be better for all participants to stop the scandal," Ryabov said.
Analysts predicted that after Zhirinovsky was disqualified from the election, his votes would go to Putin. But when the Public Opinion Foundation conducted its first poll since the ban, it found that most would-be Zhirinovsky votes were transferred to Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, according to Reuters.
With Putin way ahead in the polls, some commentators have seen the Zhirinovsky scandal as a Kremlin ploy to get out the vote. If the voter turnout falls below 50 percent, the election will be declared void and another round would be held in four months, Reuters reported.
"I don't believe the result of these polls. ... The Zhirinovsky electorate base can't exert any influence on the presidential election," Ryabov said. "Zhirinovsky can reach third place."
The more important question, he said, is whether Zyuganov can join centrist votes to his electorate base.
Presidential runner and Samara Gov. Konstantin Titov said: "Putin, Zyuganov and [presidential candidate and Kemerovo Gov. Aman] Tuleyev might not lose more than the total 1 percent of their votes" due to Zhirinovsky's reregistration.
"There is freedom in Russia. Now I feel Russia has a constitution, law and independent courts," Reuters reported Zhirinovsky as saying leaving court after the hearing.
"If I get into the Kremlin, I shall never leave the place and will rule this beloved but terrible Russia for the rest of my life," Zhirinovsky told Interfax days after the hearing, explaining that "We need about 15 years, and you, the electors, will beg me to stay, just as now you should ask me to become president."