by Sarah Hurst
Shortly after 9 pm Moscow time this evening Alexei Navalny emerged from the offices of Russia’s Central Electoral Commission having submitted his papers to be nominated as a candidate in the presidential election. The commission had stayed open late to wait for him and the other candidates who handed in paperwork today. Navalny was delayed because this morning he held his nomination meeting in Moscow in a large marquee, in which the temperature was too cold for the printer, and he had to go to his Foundation for Fighting Corruption to print his papers.
“I’m the main candidate, they couldn’t ignore me,” Navalny said in reply to a journalist’s question outside the electoral commission. Apart from the problem with the printer, almost everything had gone remarkably smoothly, with 742 delegates in Moscow voting unanimously for his nomination. Among them was Navalny’s wife Yulia, who appeared on stage with him and their children, to be showered in confetti. Navalny promised the delegates that he would win the election and that he would declare a nationwide voters’ strike if he is not allowed to participate.
Biggest gathering in St. Petersburg
Navalny only needed a minimum of 500 voters to nominate him, but to be on the safe side he had also organised gatherings in 19 other cities around Russia. People queued in the snow in cities from Vladivostok to Rostov-on-Don to have their signatures verified and to vote. The largest gathering was in St. Petersburg, where police initially complained about organisers setting out a table and chairs, but soon retreated. An impressive 1,797 people in Vladimir Putin’s home town voted to nominate Navalny.
The only police intervention in the nomination events came when 11 activists in a minibus leaving Astrakhan to go to a gathering in Volgograd were detained. They were held for a few hours and released. But police in Moscow prevented a stage being set up for the “Day of Free Elections” being organised in the afternoon by opposition politician and local legislator Ilya Yashin. Yashin decided to turn the event into an unauthorised rally, and attracted a sizeable crowd to Lermontov Square. He was able to speak there after being confronted by police outside his home, who warned him that he was violating the administrative code. Only one person was detained in the square and released shortly afterwards.
Array of hopeless candidates
Putin faces an array of other candidates in the election on March 18 who seem to be trying their best to lose. Ksenia Sobchak, the most liberal candidate, has adopted the slogan “Against all”, and the Communist Party has nominated an unknown, Pavel Grudinin, the head of a farm named after Lenin. Another party called Communists of Russia has a candidate who wants to bring back the death penalty. The LDPR is putting forward raving nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky as usual, and A Just Russia has decided not to even bother with its own candidate, but to support Putin.
The electoral commission has five days in which to decide whether to accept Navalny’s nomination. If he is rejected, it will be an obviously undemocratic and inexcusable move that again demonstrates Putin’s fear of participating in a real election. Yet again, Putin has some hard choices to make.
Categories: Campaign diary