Campaign diary

Navalny booted out of the election

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Alexei Navalny announces a voters’ strike in his video today

by Sarah Hurst

A day after submitting his nomination papers to Russia’s Central Electoral Commission, Alexei Navalny has been officially barred from the presidential election on March 18 on the pretext that he has a criminal conviction. Russia’s Constitution says that anyone who is competent and who is not under arrest may participate in a presidential election. Moreover, Navalny was convicted on obviously fabricated charges of embezzlement that were denounced by the European Court of Human Rights.

The electoral commission rejected Navalny’s registration as a candidate today, claiming that they had worked all night to scrutinise his application. In fact, electoral commission chair Ella Pamfilova had already said several times that Navalny would not be registered because of his conviction. The Kremlin even managed to drum up another would-be candidate, Oleg Lurye, who was also banned from the election because of a criminal conviction – thereby attempting to show that it was being completely fair and not just singling out Navalny.

Millions of voters excluded from election

After the commission announced its decision, Navalny gave a powerful speech in which he told the panel that they didn’t want to allow a candidate who opposes corruption into the election and asked them if they could really go home and look in the mirror and see a decent person. “I came here to say that I represent an enormous number of voters. The Central Electoral Commission’s decision to refuse me excludes millions of people from this election,” he said.

“You are not robots. I seem to be looking at real people, I should be able to affect you,” Navalny continued. “Once in your lives you could achieve not even a feat – but just observe the law. You are wasting your life on lies. You could do the right thing once in your life. Do it.” “I am not a biscuit, you don’t have to like me,” Pamfilova retorted. Boris Ebzeyev, the dour former judge and politician who had announced the decision about Navalny, commented that Navalny’s speech only convinced him that the commission was doing the objective and fair thing by banning him.

Pamfilova became emotional with Navalny as they sparred with each other, Navalny accusing her of “sitting on my back like you do on the taxpayer”, and Pamfilova shouting that Navalny collects money fraudulently and swindles “unfortunate young people”. “I was a teacher in a school for 30 years and I know what it is to deceive young people,” another commission member said.

Don’t vote for deceit and corruption

Immediately after the meeting Navalny published a video in which he called for a national voters’ strike, saying that he would turn his campaign headquarters all over the country into strike bases. Everyone should oppose the election because it is fraudulent, he told his viewers. He doesn’t want people to write his name onto ballot papers because that will be ignored by authorities. “Coming and taking a ballot paper already means voting for deceit and corruption,” he said. Those who really want to go to polling stations should go and count the number of voters, Navalny added.

“Of course, we won’t recognise the election result and we won’t recognise the government that remains sitting in their offices based on the election result, because they stole those offices and they stole those seats,” Navalny said. “We have no alternative. It’s our country. It’s our future. They are harming our future and our prospects,” he added, pointing to a picture of Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev. “If we don’t stop them, they’ll never get sick of it,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, Putin has said that he has no need to attend his nomination meeting tomorrow. Why make the effort, when the outcome of the election is a foregone conclusion? Putin has given up even trying to create the faintest impression that he is interested in the real support of Russians. He plans to rule by brute force.

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