Russia: Putin nemesis Navalny, barred from election, tries political siege | Reuters

Two young anti-Putin activists trudged through a snow-logged Moscow housing estate on a recent Saturday, putting up fliers promoting a boycott of a presidential election next month. “It’s not an election, it’s a trick,” read one, depicting a goggle-eyed caricature of Vladimir Putin, who polls show should be comfortably re-elected on March 18. A man donning a fur hat ripped one of the fliers down within a minute. A woman, told by the activists “our elections have been stolen”, quietly shut her door in their faces. Unglamorous and at times disheartening for those involved, this is the sharp end of opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s campaign to boycott an election he says amounts to the rigged reappointment of Putin, whom he likens to an autocratic Tsar.

Russia: Court Closes Foundation of Aleksei Navalny, a Kremlin Critic | The New York Times

A Moscow court on Monday ordered the closing of a foundation supporting the activities of Aleksei A. Navalny, the country’s leading opposition politician, moving quickly in a case filed only this month by the Justice Ministry. The court order came before a series of rallies in more than 90 Russian cities and towns, scheduled for Sunday and organized by Mr. Navalny and his supporters. The foundation, the Fifth Season of the Year, has been used by Mr. Navalny to collect donations that finance campaign materials, salaries and offices in 84 regions across Russia, among other weapons in his drive against corruption and the workings of the Kremlin under President Vladimir V. Putin. More than 145,000 Russians have donated $4.9 million to the foundation over the past 13 months, Mr. Navalny says.

Russia: High court reaffirms Navalny ban from presidential race | Deutsche Welle

Russia’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal on Saturday from opposition leader Alexei Navalny to run for president. One week after a lower court upheld a ruling by the Central Election Commission, which rejected his application to stand, the country’s high court backed the decision, citing a criminal conviction against the opposition leader. Navalny insists the embezzlement conviction against him is nothing more than a politically-motivated frame-up to keep him from running. Russia’s constitution prohibits anyone with a criminal conviction from seeking high office. President Vladimir Putin is widely expected to win the March election but, without Navalny, he faces only token opposition. Putin has been in office — as either president or prime minister — for nearly 20 years. Should he win re-election, Putin will become Russia’s longest-serving leader since dictator Josef Stalin.

Russia: Opposition leader appeals ban on election run against Putin | ABC

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has submitted another appeal to the nation’s courts after he was banned from running against President Vladimir Putin, according to Russian media reports. On Wednesday, Navalny submitted an appeal to appellate body of the Russian Supreme Court after his previous challenge to the ruling by the country’s electoral commission, which banned him from running in this year’s presidential election, was denied. Russia’s Central Elections Commission blocked Navalny from running last month by preventing a group of his supporters from nominating him, on the grounds that Navalny had been convicted of fraud.

Russia: Putin’s Rival Can’t Run for President, But He’s Still a Threat | Bloomberg

Now that he’s been officially barred from challenging Russian President Vladimir Putin in presidential elections next March, opposition leader Alexey Navalny is counting on becoming an even bigger nuisance for the Kremlin. The 41-year-old Navalny, who is banned from appearing on state television and whose name Putin never even mentions in public, is urging his supporters to protest nationwide on Jan. 28 as part of a campaign to boycott the vote. “Going to vote now just means fixing Putin’s problems by helping him disguise his reappointment as something that looks like an election,” Navalny wrote on his blog after Russia’s Central Election Commission refused to register him as a candidate due to a fraud conviction that Navalny denounces as politically motivated. In a video, he accused Putin of being “afraid of running against me.”

Russia: Supreme court rules Kremlin critic cannot run for president | The Guardian

Russia’s supreme court has upheld a ban on the government critic Alexei Navalny from running for president, a decision he has vowed to respond to with nationwide protests. “We don’t recognise elections without competition,” Navalny wrote on Twitter after the ruling on Saturday. He did not attend the hearing, which his lawyers say they will appeal against at the European court of human rights. The ruling was widely expected and came after Russia’s central election committee said on 25 December that Navalny, 41, was not allowed to stand for public office until at least 2028 because of a previous fraud conviction.

Russia: Court upholds ban on Navalny running against Putin in 2018 | Reuters

Russia’s Supreme Court on Saturday dismissed an appeal by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny against a decision by the country’s central election commission to bar him from taking part in next year’s presidential election. The commission this week barred Navalny from taking part in the March 18 vote because of a suspended prison sentence he says was trumped up. Navalny, who did not attend the Supreme Court hearing, wrote on Twitter that he and his supporters “will not recognize elections without competition” and renewed calls for a boycott of the vote.

Russia: Russian investigators raid election offices of Putin critic Navalny | Reuters

Russian investigators raided the Moscow election headquarters of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Thursday and police entered a warehouse, where activists said they confiscated pre-election pamphlets. Navalny, who has organized two big anti-government street protests in recent months, is currently serving out a 25-day jail term for repeatedly violating the law on organizing public meetings. He is due out on Friday. Navalny says he wants to run for the presidency in March next year, but the Central Election Commission has said he is ineligible due to an embezzlement conviction which Navalny says was politically-motivated.

Russia: Putin critic Navalny has no chance of running for president: Election chief | Reuters

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.

Russia: Anti-Putin protesters plan next move as jailed opponent considers election bid | The Guardian

“Nobody is scared of going to jail, but we have work to do,” said Kira Yarmysh, spokeswoman for Alexei Navalny, as she waited for the Russian opposition politician to be delivered to court for an appeal hearing on Thursday. Navalny, who was marched to his hearing handcuffed to a stout police officer, saw his appeal rejected, and will spend the next week behind bars, serving out a 15-day sentence after he was arrested at last weekend’s protest in Moscow, one of more than 1,000 people detained by police in the capital alone. There were protests in dozens of Russian cities last Sunday, called by Navalny over allegations of corruption against prime minister Dmitry Medvedev. They were the biggest since a wave of protests in 2011 and 2012, and for the first time since that wave was crushed there is an air of uncertainty on the Russian political scene.

Russia: Putin opponent Navalny determined to run for presidency of Russia | Financial Times

Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Putin’s most dogged political opponent, has vowed to force the Kremlin to allow him to run in next year’s presidential elections, in a move that will test the Russian leader’s confidence in his ability to hold on to power. The lawyer and anti-corruption campaigner said his latest criminal conviction, which under Russian law bars him from running for public office, could not prevent his presidential bid. “We will try to grow support in society until the Kremlin understands that it is necessary to admit me to the elections and the consequences of not admitting me will be even worse,” Mr Navalny said in his first interview since he was convicted of embezzlement last week. “This is a political campaign for a change of power.” Even Mr Putin’s critics think it unlikely Mr Navalny would pose a serious threat, given the president’s support ratings of about 80 per cent. But observers believe the way the Kremlin deals with the opposition politician will reflect how safe the Russian leader feels.

Russia: Alexei Navalny: Russian opposition leader found guilty of embezzlement | The Guardian

The Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been found guilty at a retrial of embezzlement and given a five-year suspended prison sentence, putting his proposed presidential run in 2018 in doubt. Election rules say candidates cannot have felony convictions, but the anti-corruption activist vowed to appeal and said he would continue his campaign “no matter what happens in court”. “What we saw was a telegram from the Kremlin saying that they consider me, my team and those people whose views I express too dangerous to allow us into the electoral race,” Navalny said in the courtroom after the verdict. “This verdict will be overturned. I have the full right under the constitution to participate in elections, and I will do so. I will continue to represent the interests of people who want Russia to be a normal, honest, not corrupt country.”

Russia: Alexei Navalny wins his case in Strasbourg | Deutsche Welle

Alexei Navalny has recorded another success. On Sunday, in several proceedings, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg condemned Russia for the arbitrary arrest of the Russian opposition politician. The judges ruled that Navalny had been arrested without sufficient justification at peaceful demonstrations and rallies in Moscow seven times between 2012 and 2014, and in some instances held for many hours. Navalny’s rights to the freedom of protest and expression as well as his right to freedom had been repeatedly violated, they said. The judges also ruled that there had been a violation of his right to a fair trial, as the Russian courts had dismissed all Navalny’s objections to the arrests. The court awarded the complainant damages of 64,000 euros.

Russia: Opposition rallies in Moscow to demand fair elections | Reuters

Thousands of people rallied on the streets of Moscow on Sunday to demand fair elections and challenge Vladimir Putin’s 15-year-old rule, in the first significant opposition protest in the capital for months. The gathering was restricted by authorities to a district of southern Moscow. Police said no more than 500 took part, while a Reuters witness said there were some 3,000 protesters. “Putin is a bureaucrat, not the czar,” one poster said. Opposition leaders, including anti-Kremlin figurehead Alexei Navalny, said they were protesting against what they called Putin’s “lifelong” rule. “Russia will be free!” Ilya Yashin told the rally. “We will not depart from the country and leave it in the mercy of ‘crooks and thieves’,” he said, referring to a phrase coined by Navalny to describe Russia’s ruling party.

Russia: Regional elections show Putin-style democracy in action | Financial Times

Every morning when Svetlana arrives at Susanin Square in the centre of Kostroma, she has to remind herself that she is doing this out of idealism. The soft-spoken 28-year-old is a campaign volunteer for the Russian opposition in regional elections scheduled for this Sunday, and things are not going well. “People react negatively to us,” says Svetlana as she tries to hand out flyers for RPR Parnas, a party co-chaired by Boris Nemtsov, the veteran opposition leader shot dead earlier this year. “The relentless propaganda works and people have it in their brains that we are the fifth column.” A few days ago, two women asked Svetlana why there were Russian flags on top of her stand and suggested that the party should instead fly American ones since it was a US lackey. Sunday’s elections, in which 16 regions will choose governors and 14 will select parliaments, illustrate just how far president Vladimir Putin has progressed in hollowing out the country’s democratic institutions during his 15 years in power, and how resigned to that the population has become.

Russia: Russian Opposition Blocked From Standing in Local Elections | Newsweek

Russia’s joint Democratic Coalition, led by renowned anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny and the supporters of the late opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, have been refused the right to run for election across all the regions where they opted to campaign on the grounds of irregularities in their applications, Russian national daily Kommersant reports. Local council elections in Russia will be held in September and the Democratic Coalition, which is made up of several of the biggest opposition movements to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s regime, was due to contest four constituencies.

Russia: Opposition coalition to contest regional polls | BBC

Russia’s main opposition groups say they will combine forces to fight for election in three regions this autumn. They are hoping for a springboard for the 2016 national parliamentary vote. The “democratic coalition” was formed last weekend to unite six parties and groups under the banner of RPR-Parnas, the party of murdered opposition politician Boris Nemtsov. The coalition includes the party of anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, but he cannot run for office. He is serving a suspended prison sentence in an embezzlement case that he argues was fabricated.

Russia: ‘Most Diverse’ Elections Offer No Real Choice | The Moscow Times

An all-time record 63 parties will compete in the upcoming regional elections next month, but pundits and opposition candidates say undesirables have been purged from the lists. “The intrigue is mostly about the turnout and runners-up in the gubernatorial polls,” regional analyst Alexei Titkov of the Higher School of Economics said Thursday. “If less than 30 percent of voters turn out, it may finally trigger the long-awaited public discussion about there being something not quite right about our elections,” Titkov said by telephone. On Wednesday, candidate registration closed for the more than 5,800 local elections that will take place across 84 of 85 Russian provinces on Sept. 14, according to the Central Election Commission. Thirty governor seats are up for grabs, from St. Petersburg to the far eastern Primorye region, and 14 regional legislatures will be re-elected, including in Moscow. But not a single incumbent, Kremlin-endorsed governor risks defeat, Titkov said — mostly because electoral authorities have banned all dangerous rivals from the race.

Russia: ‘None of the Above’ on Its Way Back to the Ballot | The Moscow Times

The State Duma’s Legislation Committee on Monday approved a bill reintroducing the “none of the above” option in all elections except for those choosing a president. The ballot option was introduced in Russia in 1991 but was removed in 2006. Its planned reintroduction has been widely interpreted as an attempt by United Russia to take votes away from opposition candidates. Legislation Committee chairman Vladimir Pligin, of United Russia, said that the option would be reasonable for municipal elections but that its relevance for State Duma and regional elections was open to discussion. The bill was submitted last October by Valentina Matviyenko, speaker of the Federation Council, and other members of the parliament’s upper house. They argued that the option would help determine whether a particular vote was a protest vote against the ruling party or a genuine preference for a specific candidate.

Russia: Moscow court confirms election defeat for Navalny | Associated Press

A Moscow courthouse on Friday upheld the results of mayoral elections in which the Kremlin-backed incumbent narrowly avoided a run-off with opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Russian news outlets reported. The judge rejected Navalny’s claims that the campaign was marked by abuse of government finances and selected voter fraud, ruling that there were no grounds for a recount. Navalny’s success in the elections proved an embarrassment to his Kremlin-backed opponent, incumbent Sergei Sobyanin. Sobyanin got 51 percent of the vote, just avoiding the 50 percent cut-off that would have forced him into a second round against Navalny. Independent election monitor Golos also criticized the election result, saying that there had been no evidence of widespread vote-rigging but that isolated violations could have tipped the close election. Also Friday, another court that Navalny’s appeals trial will begin on Oct. 9. Navalny was sentenced in July to five years in prison for embezzlement in a case that he and his supporters describe as legally dubious and a punishment for his exposure of high-level corruption.

Russia: Putin foe Navalny to challenge Moscow election defeat in court | Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent opponent, Alexei Navalny, said on Wednesday he would file hundreds of legal challenges to Moscow mayoral election results he says were rigged to give a Kremlin ally victory. Sergei Sobyanin, who was appointed mayor by the Kremlin in 2010 but called an early election to increase his legitimacy, won the vote on Sunday with 51.3 percent – enough to avoid a second-round run-off against Navalny, who had 27.3 percent. Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger who helped lead street protests against Putin in the past two years, has refused to accept the results and has cited election observers whose count put Sobyanin below the 50 percent threshold. “Everybody’s asking: Where are the lawsuits? If you’re unhappy with the results and believe there was fraud, why aren’t you complaining?” Navalny wrote on his blog. “I answer: We are preparing well-grounded legal complaints. It takes time.”

Russia: Navalny demands recount in Moscow mayoral race | Associated Press

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.”

Russia: Opposition Leader Asserts Broad Problems in Moscow Race | New York Times

The Russian opposition leader, Aleksei A. Navalny, on Thursday submitted to a court more than 50,000 pages of documents illustrating what he said were irregularities in Sunday’s voting in the Moscow mayor’s race in an attempt to prove that he won enough votes to force a runoff against the incumbent, Sergei S. Sobyanin. But the court refused to block the inauguration of Mr. Sobyanin, who barely cleared the threshold for an outright victory with 51.4 percent. He was sworn in on Thursday evening during a ceremony in the city’s World War II museum. According to the official returns, Mr. Navalny placed second with 27.2 percent. Yet, even as Mr. Navalny and his aides lugged 21 boxes of documents to the courthouse, they acknowledged not only that there was little hope of overturning the results, but also that the voting had been relatively fair. So they have adopted a new message: while the vote was generally free of blatant fraud like ballot stuffing, the election itself was rigged from the beginning.

Russia: Mayor’s Rival Contests Moscow Vote | Wall Street Journal

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny delivered an unexpectedly strong showing in Moscow’s mayoral elections, but still vowed to challenge the preliminary official results, which gave a majority to incumbent Sergei Sobyanin. Mr. Navalny said he didn’t expect to win himself, but was confident that his Kremlin-backed opponent had fallen short of the 50% needed to avoid a runoff. The final official count, with 100% of precincts in Moscow reporting had Mr. Sobyanin winning 51.37% with just under 1.2 million votes and Mr. Navalny 27.24% with 632,697 votes; the rest was split among four other candidates, according to the Moscow City Election Commission. The tension over the election raises the prospect of a repeat of the massive demonstrations against the Kremlin that were spurred by widespread allegations of falsification of votes in the Dec. 2011 parliamentary ballot. Mr. Navalny’s supporters received a permit to hold a rally Monday evening at one site of those protests. It wasn’t clear how large turnout was likely to be; recent opposition protests have been thinly attended.

Russia: Putin critic set to capture protest vote in Moscow polls | AFP

As Muscovites prepared Saturday to elect a mayor for the first time in a decade, many said they would support a controversial critic of Vladimir Putin who channels public anger against the Kremlin. On Sunday, they will have to choose from six candidates including Kremlin-backed incumbent Sergei Sobyanin and the main opposition candidate Alexei Navalny, who has campaigned under the shadow of a five-year sentence on charges he condemned as politically motivated. The candidacy of the 37-year-old anti-corruption blogger has made the race the first genuinely competitive Russian election since the heady first post-Soviet years, even if many harbour reservations about his tough anti-migrant rhetoric. Kremlin-backed Sobyanin, 55, is expected to win with a majority, while Navalny is set to come second with around 20 percent, according to opinion polls.

Russia: Elections to Elect Governors, Moscow Mayor After 9-year Break in Popular Votes | RIA Novosti

Millions of Russians will take to the polling booths on Sunday to cast their votes in regional and municipal elections. The most important race is happening in Moscow, where Acting Mayor Sergei Sobyanin faces off against Russia’s protest leader Alexei Navalny. Sobyanin, an ally and former administration head of President Vladimir Putin, is uniformly expected to win the mayoral seat by a wide margin. Turnout for Navalny, though, will determine to what extent Moscow residents oppose the Kremlin and its policies, political pundits said. “A sizeable part of the vote against Sobyanin will be against not the Moscow city government or the personality of the Moscow mayor, but against federal politics,” said Boris Makarenko, chairman of the Center for Political Technologies. “The Kremlin is receiving many signals that a sizeable part of the population has problems with how it is governing the county.” Authorities worked intentionally to keep Navalny in the race, in what analysts say was an effort to boost the legitimacy of the crucial vote after tens of thousands of Muscovites took to the streets to protest the 2011 parliamentary and 2012 presidential elections results. The opposition claimed the contests were rigged in favor of the Kremlin.

Russia: Moscow to consider disqualifying Navalny from mayor poll | GlobalPost

The Moscow election commission is to consider whether to disqualify protest leader Alexei Navalny from taking part in elections for city mayor on September 8, the Russian capital’s election chief said Thursday. The commission would meet “soon” to discuss violations in Navalny’s campaign, Moscow election commission chief Valentin Gorbunov said. “If the violations exceed the norms established by the law than the question will be raised of cancelling the registration of the candidate,” Gorbunov said, according to comments confirmed by a spokesman to AFP. The spokesman, declining to be identified, refused further details.

Editorials: No fair play in Moscow mayoral election | Russia Beyond The Headlines

The first major scandals of the Moscow mayoral campaign have erupted. The Prosecutor General of Russia claimed to have found evidence that opposition candidate Alexei Navalny received funding for his campaign from overseas, while Navalny has released information about the misdealings of his main rival, current acting mayor of Moscow Sergey Sobyanin. Experts think the mudslinging is unlikely to swing voters one way or the other, although Navalny’s alleged transgressions may lead to his removal from the race. The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) was the first to drive attention towards the source of funding in Navalny’s election campaign. An investigation by the Prosecutor General’s office following a complaint filed by LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has revealed that more than 300 foreign entities – businesses, private individuals and anonymous donors – from 46 countries and 347 addresses used the Yandex.Money electronic payment system to send money to the digital wallets of Navalny and other members of his campaign team. According to reports from Russian newswire Interfax, the evidence has been forwarded to the Investigation Committee so that a criminal proceeding can be initiated.

Russia: More Parties Banned From Elections in Russia | RIA Novosti

More parties have been banned from regional elections in Russia this year than in 2012, despite the Kremlin’s attempted liberalization of political legislation, a new study said Wednesday. In total, 9.2 percent of the candidate lists submitted by parties for the September 8 elections have been banned, compared with 2.4 percent last year, according to a report by the Civil Initiatives Committee think tank, founded by longtime Kremlin insider-turned-critic Alexei Kudrin, a former finance minister.