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Russia excludes senior Communist candidate from parliamentary vote

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MOSCOW, July 24 (Reuters) – Russian electoral authorities on Saturday barred a well-known Communist Party candidate from running in September’s parliamentary election, the latest high-profile opposition figure to be disqualified from the vote.

Pavel Grudinin, who won 12% of votes when he challenged Vladimir Putin in a 2018 presidential election, was excluded from a candidate list because the Prosecutor’s Office had found he held shares in a foreign company, news agencies reported.

Grudinin, a wealthy farm boss, denied having any foreign assets and linked his disqualification by the central election commission to the potential for opposition parties to post a strong result in September, Interfax reported.

A recent opinion poll showed the Communists and other opposition parties could pose a threat to the dominance of Putin’s United Russia party in the State Duma, Russia’s lower house, in the upcoming election.

“The (Communist) Party is an opposition party,” Grudinin was quoted as saying by Interfax. “Someone is afraid of the big effect that a union of left-wing forces could have.”

The party’s leader, Gennady Zyuganov, vowed to appeal the decision at the Supreme Court, the TASS agency reported.

A poll by the independent Levada Centre in March found that while 27% of Russians would vote for United Russia, 10% would back the Communists and a further 12% planned to support the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR).

Saturday’s decision follows the disqualification of several opposition figures, mainly affiliated with jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

A court ruling this month outlawed groups linked to Navalny as “extremist”, and a new law prevents heads or members of such groups from running for the lower house of parliament or taking part in other elections for periods of three to five years.

(Writing by Polina Ivanova Editing by Helen Popper)