RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER Alexei Navalny has warned of protests after narrowly failing to push Moscow’s pro-Kremlin mayor into a run-off in tight elections he claimed were marred by falsifications.
Mayor Sergei Sobyanin just crept over the finish line to win 51.3 per cent of votes in yesterday’s poll, which analysts saw as a crucial test of the protest mood in Russia over a year into President Vladimir Putin’s new Kremlin term.
Navalny, who campaigned under the shadow of a controversial conviction for embezzlement, polled far more strongly than projected with over 27 per cent, but contended the results were falsified.
In a nationwide day of local polls whose results may worry the Kremlin, opposition anti-drugs campaigner Yevgeny Roizman also defeated the pro-Kremlin candidate in elections for Russia’s fourth-largest city Yekaterinburg.
Sobyanin, a long time ally of Putin, won 51.32 per cent of the vote and Navalny 27.27 per cent, the Moscow election commission said, in a count based on 99.6 per cent of polling stations reporting.
But Navalny, 37, insisted he had managed to force the mayor into a second round and vowed street protests if the authorities did not acknowledge Sobyanin had polled less than 50 per cent.
“What we are seeing now are clear falsifications,” he told reporters in a late night briefing at his campaign headquarters in Moscow.
“We demand that a second round is held. If that is not done… we will appeal to the citizens and ask them to take to the streets of Moscow.”
The city authorities have already allowed Navalny to hold a rally of up to 2,500 people in central Moscow on Monday evening, during which he has promised to decide future strategy.
The candidacy of the charismatic anti-corruption crusader Navalny made the race the first genuinely competitive Russian election since the heady early post-Soviet years.
It was also the first time the Kremlin had allowed Muscovites to elect their mayor in a decade and Sobyanin clearly wanted to pick up popular legitimacy after being appointed in 2010 to replace longstanding mayor Yury Luzhkov.
Communist candidate Ivan Melnikov was third in the partial results with just over 10.6 percent of the vote, while other contenders merely made up the numbers.
- AFP, 2013