Russia’s main election authority on Thursday refused to allow a politician opposing Moscow’s military action in Ukraine on the ballot for next month’s presidential election.
Main electoral body rules that majority of signatures for Boris Nadezhdin are invalidThe Associated Press
· Posted: Feb 08, 2024 7:09 AM EST | Last Updated: 5 hours ago
Boris Nadezhdin, a liberal Russian politician who is seeking to run in the March 17 presidential election, centre, speaks to journalists after a meeting of the Russia’s Central Election Commission in Moscow on Thursday. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/The Associated Press)Russia’s main election authority on Thursday refused to allow a politician opposing Moscow’s military action in Ukraine on the ballot for next month’s presidential election.
Boris Nadezhdin, a local legislator in a town near Moscow, was required by law to gather at least 100,000 signatures in support of candidacy. The requirement applies to candidates put forward by political parties that are not represented in the Russian parliament.
The Central Election Commission declared more than 9,000 signatures submitted by Nadezhdin’s campaign invalid, which was enough to disqualify him. Russia’s election rules say potential candidates can have no more than five per cent of their submitted signatures thrown out.
Nadezhdin, 60, has openly called for a halt to the conflict in Ukraine and for starting a dialogue with the West. Thousands of Russians lined up across the country last month to sign papers in support of his candidacy, an unusual show of opposition sympathies in the country’s rigidly controlled political landscape.
Speaking at the Election Commission on Thursday, Nadezhdin asked election authorities to postpone the decision and to give him more time to rebut their arguments, but they declined. The politician said he would challenge his disqualification in court.
“It’s not me standing here,” Nadezhdin said. “Hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens who put their signatures down for me are behind me.”
Real opposition hobbledPresident Vladimir Putin is almost certain to win the re-election given his tight control of Russia’s political system. Most of the opposition figures who might have challenged him have been either imprisoned or exiled abroad. That includes opposition leader Alexei Navalny, whose attempt to run against Putin in 2018 also was rejected. He is now serving a 19-year prison sentence on extremism charges.
The vast majority of independent Russian media outlets also have been banned under Putin.
Putin is running as an independent candidate, and his campaign was required to gather at least 300,000 signatures in his support. He was swiftly allowed on the ballot earlier this year, with election officials disqualifying only 91 signatures out of 315,000 his campaign submitted.
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Central Election Commission head Ella Pamfilova said the ballot will have only four names. That’s the lowest number of candidates since 2008, when Dmitry Medvedev ran in place of the term-limited Putin. Medvedev easily won the race with three other token contenders in a power-sharing deal that kept Putin in charge as prime minister.
Three other candidates registered to run were nominated by parties represented in parliament and weren’t required to collect signatures: Nikolai Kharitonov of the Communist Party, Leonid Slutsky of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party and Vladislav Davankov of the New People Party.
The three parties have been largely supportive of the Kremlin’s policies. Kharitonov ran against Putin in 2004, finishing a distant second.
Millions want change, Nadezhdin saysExiled opposition activists threw their weight behind Nadezhdin last month, urging their supporters to sign his nomination petitions. Putin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has said the Kremlin doesn’t view Nadezhdin as a rival for the incumbent president.
On Thursday, Nadezhdin urged his supporters not to give up.
“You can remove Nadezhdin from the elections, no question, you can do it,” he said. “But where do you put tens of millions of people who want change, who do not agree with the course that is now taking place in the country? That’s the problem. These people are not going anywhere.”
Nadezhdin is the second pro-peace hopeful to be denied a presidential bid. In December, the election commission refused to certify the candidacy of Yekaterina Duntsova, citing problems such as spelling errors in her nomination paperwork.
A billboard with the words Happy New Year and the QR code in Moscow on Dec. 7, 2023. The billboard was soon taken down after it was learned that the QR code led to an anti-Putin website. (The Associated Press)Duntsova, a journalist and a former legislator from the Tver region north of Moscow, announced plans last year to challenge Putin in the March election. Promoting a vision of a Russia “that’s peaceful, friendly and ready to co-operate with everyone on the principle of respect,” she said she wanted the fighting in Ukraine to come to a swift end and for Moscow and Kyiv to come to the negotiating table.
Earlier this month, Navalny urged supporters to show their opposition to Putin by coming to the polls to vote at a specific time on election day — a move he hoped would result in long queues and turn into “a powerful demonstration of the country’s mood.”
Navalny’s top strategist, Leonid Volkov, reiterated that call Thursday, saying the decision to reject Nadezhdin “serves one goal: to sow despair, so that more people throw in the towel and decide not to go anywhere.”
In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Volkov argued the March election is a “propaganda effort to spread hopelessness” and “instil despair in all normal people in Russia” by creating an image of Putin’s overwhelming popularity.
The presidential election is scheduled for March 15-17.