Putin foe Navalny to challenge Moscow election defeat in court

MOSCOW Wed Sep 11, 2013 2:21pm EDT

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny addresses supporters during a rally in Moscow, September 9, 2013. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny addresses supporters during a rally in Moscow, September 9, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Tatyana Makeyeva

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MOSCOW (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."

He said his team would file one suit at Moscow's main court on Thursday calling for the entire election to be annulled, and 951 separate complaints at district court seeking to overturn results from individual polling places.

TRUCKLOAD

"It's about 50,000 pages, we're hauling it around in a truck," he wrote.

He alleged violations including vote buying, illegal campaigning for Sobyanin on state-funded television and abuses of the system of voting at home to skew the results in favor of Sobyanin.

Navalny's showing was far stronger than opinion polls had forecast and may have rattled Putin, but there appears to be little chance his legal challenge will succeed in Russia's courts, which Kremlin critics say follow orders from the state.

Putin is expected to attend Sobyanin's inauguration ceremony on Thursday.

At least 10,000 people demonstrated on Monday evening, chanting Navalny's name and demanding a second-round runoff.

But a rally that had been planned before the election for Saturday was called off to focus on the legal battle, and there was no immediate sign the protest movement that faded after Putin won a third term in March 2012 was erupting again.

Analysts say the scale of violations was smaller than in Russia's December 2011 parliamentary election when accusations of widespread fraud in favor of Putin's United Russia party triggered the biggest protests of his 13-year rule.

Navalny, 37, has a five-year jail sentence hanging over him after being convicted of theft at a trial he says was the Kremlin's revenge for his political activism.

A day after his conviction in July, a court freed him pending a ruling on his appeal, enabling him to continue the election campaign.

If he loses his appeal, he will be unable to run in elections while in jail, which would keep him out of a 2018 presidential vote in which Putin has not ruled out seeking a fourth term.

(Editing by Steve Gutterman and Andrew Roche)

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Comments (3)
QuidProQuo wrote:
Poor sore loser. He barely got over 25% of the people’s vote so I seriously do not take him as a major contender. He would probably do alot more good for the causes he believes in by remaining a blogger and putting all his ideas into words to be read by those who agree with his perspectives on life

Sep 11, 2013 3:00pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Can he not stop the interference? How does a person such as this purport to lead that which he constantly disrupts while a presently unelected citizen? It is just ludicrous; there is no way that this person can be trusted to care genuinely for anything outside of their personal interests and status. Everything he does causes chaos, not order. Everything he promises caters to desires, not complex needs. I grew weary of this person from the moment I first heard of him, and now he is just impossible to take in any way seriously. Just complaining and causing a ruckus the way that people think is the “fun” and “modern” way to do politics – in the streets, trashing the city and screaming – and not working on something, anything, directly constructive. Such people are too many, and it is unnerving to see one get as much as close to thirty percent of the vote of a supposedly civilised modern city. I blame low voter turnout for Sobyanin not getting a much greater number of votes.

Sep 11, 2013 4:45pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
williswillis wrote:
I doubt that anyone really reads these comments anyway, but I can’t help myself from pointing out that QuidProQuo clearly has no idea what s/he is talking about, and AgnieszkaMaria sounds like a ridiculous Kremlin stooge. “Causing a ruckus”? This had me rolling on the floor.

Navalny is probably the first person in the history of Russia to run a bona fide political campaign, and the entire world should wish him well. The Russian people deserve to live in a dignified political culture instead of a broken kleptocracy, and Navalny is clearly one of the only public figures in the country who has a proposal about how to get there.

Sep 11, 2013 12:05am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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