Mikhail Khodorkovsky could become Communist presidential candidate in 2004 elections

YUKOS CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been considered by the Communist Party as a possible candidate for the 2004 presidential elections but several other candidates have also been considered. This was announced to a Rosbalt correspondent today by a source within the party. He said there are differing views within the party as to how the presidential election campaign should develop. 'If the Communist Party does badly in the State Duma elections, a special party assembly may be called at which leader Gennady Zyuganov will be forced to step down,' he said. If this happens, Central Committee Member Valentin Kuptsov has proposed that Deputy State Duma Speaker Gennady Semigin could become the new leader and therefore a presidential candidate. As a result Mr Zyuganov has started an active search for another alternative and has come up with the most unusual choices, the source said. He supposed that the electorate could come to like Mr Khodorkovsky over the next three months 'as people like those who are persecuted by the government.'

Today Izvestiya newspaper reported that a special assembly of the Communist Party Central Committee had been called and Mr Khodorkovsky had been selected as a possible candidate for president. According to the newspaper, the proposal was supported by Mr Zyuganov, Central Committee Secretary Ivan Melnikov and others.

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