Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has no chance of taking part in next year’s presidential election because of a previous conviction for embezzlement, the head of Russia’s election commission told TV Rain late on Wednesday. Navalny, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, has said he wants to run for the presidency in March 2018. Putin, who has dominated Russia’s political landscape for 17 years, is widely expected to run for what would be his fourth term, but has yet to confirm he will do so.
Navalny has become the most prominent opposition challenger after organizing some of the biggest anti-Kremlin protests in years, seeking to leverage public anger over what he says is grotesque official corruption to boost his popularity. But he suffered a setback in February when a court handed him a suspended five-year jail term for embezzlement in a case he said was trumped up to frustrate his presidential bid.
Ella Pamfilova, the head of the Central Election Commission, told TV Rain late on Wednesday that the conviction meant a presidential run by Navalny was out of the question. “I am afraid to be discourteous,” said Pamfilova. “But I understand – and he understands himself – that he has no chance of being registered for the election due to his previous conviction.”
… Leonid Volkov, a Navalny ally, said he thought the authorities were bluffing.