Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny Excluded from Presidential Elections in Russia

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The central Russian Electoral Commission in Russia has excluded opposition leader Alexei Nawalny from candidacy for the 2018 presidential election. In a public vote, 12 of the 13 members of the panel in Moscow voted in favor of the exclusion. One member abstained. The commission stated that the 41-year-old was not eligible for election because he had been convicted in a criminal case.

On Sunday, Nawalny had submitted his papers for the presidential election to the Central Electoral Commission.

Earlier in October, the electoral commission decided that Nawalny may not run for office until 2028. The Commission justified this by condemning Nawalny for embezzlement. The opposition politician denies the allegations and speaks of a political judgment. Nawalny had challenged the sentence before the European Court of Human Rights. The court in the northern Russian city of Kirov, however, re-imposed the same sentence in a repeat ruling.

On Sunday, supporters of the opposition leader had prepared the submission of his nomination and urged the Kremlin to allow a candidacy.

Nawalny responded with a boycott call on the vote.

“We will not recognize the outcome of these elections.” Now, only Putin “and his handpicked candidates” would participate in the election, Nawalny continued, “Choosing to vote now means voting for lies and corruption.”

Last week, more than 500 supporters gathered in many Russian cities, including Moscow and St. Petersburg, to propose Nawalny as a presidential candidate. This number is necessary to submit the candidature of an independent candidate.

Nawalny is the most important opponent of President Vladimir Putin, who has been in power for 18 years. Critics consider the verdict against him as a political retaliatory action.

As a result of the conviction, Nawalny would only be allowed to take part in the presidential election next March if he had received a special permit or if the sentence had been overturned. For a year now, the opposition has been building campaign offices throughout Russia and mobilizing its supporters. Already in October, the electoral commission had decided because of his conviction that Nawalny may not run for office until 2028. He was detained three times this year.

Putin is applying for a fourth term as president. His victory in the election on March 18 is considered safe, and he could stay in office until 2024.