Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny demanded a recount Monday in Moscow’s mayoral election after official results showed that the Kremlin-backed incumbent barely escaped facing him in a runoff. Russia’s most respected monitoring group also questioned the accuracy of the vote. The Moscow Election Commission said Monday that former Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Sobyanin won just over 51 percent of the vote while Navalny garnered 27 percent in second place, a strong result for a Russian opposition leader. If Sobyanin, 55, had won less than 50 percent, he would have faced a runoff with the charismatic 37-year-old Navalny, who has risen to wide prominence in the past few years with his anti-corruption campaign. “We do not recognize these elections,” Navalny told reporters. “Sobyanin can’t consider himself the mayor of all Muscovites, he can’t consider himself a lawfully elected mayor unless he agrees to our demands and allows a recount of the vote.”
Leonid Volkov, chief of Navalny’s election campaign, said the key violation they are contesting is the voting-from-home totals, where the vote count showed what he called an abnormally high number of votes for Sobyanin. Those votes are from people considered too infirm to get to polling stations.
Sobyanin, who was appointed Moscow’s mayor in 2010, told Russian news agencies that Moscow had “passed the test for free and fair elections.”
Sunday’s election was closely watched around the world amid concerns over the democratic process in Russia and following Navalny’s recent conviction for embezzlement, a charge he says was politically motivated.