Moscow mayoral candidate Aleksey Navalny insists on a second round in the poll, saying that the incumbent’s 50-plus percent result was achieved with violations and must be annulled.
“We are sure that the elections must not end in the first round. I am absolutely convinced that Sobyanin got less than 50 percent. There must be a runoff, we demand that the runoff is called,” Navalny said in an interview with popular talk radio station Echo of Moscow.
The announcement was made shortly before the official preliminary results of the ballot count were announced, according to which United Russia party veteran and incumbent acting Mayor Sergey Sobyanin received 51.37 percent of the votes securing the victory in the first round, albeit by the very small margin of just over 1 percent.
Navalny runs on the ticket from rightist pro-market party RPR-PARNAS, but is largely perceived as an independent figure who made himself a political name through running anti-corruption blog with heavy emphasis on alleged violations committed by members of parliamentary majority party United Russia.
In contrast, Sobyanin ran as independent, but the public still links his name with United Russia as he has sat on its Supreme Council since 2001 and he headed the election HQ of party leader Dmitry Medvedev in his victorious 2008 presidential campaign.
According to the same results, Navalny received 27.24 percent of votes, Communist Party candidate Ivan Melnikov got 10.69 percent and the other three candidates got less than 5 percent of votes each. The most surprising figure for analysts and participants in the elections was the extremely low voters’ turnout of around 32 percent.
The final official results of the ballot count will be released on Tuesday.
Sobyanin held a meeting with his supporters in the morning, accepted congratulations and asked his competitors to “accept the majority opinion.” He also expressed readiness to meet Navalny.
“I invite him - he may come,” Sobyanin said, though without specifying the list of issues he wanted to discuss.
Navalny has not yet commented on the invitation, but instead threatened that his supporters would take to the streets if the authorities reject the demand of the runoff. Navalny’s election headquarters claims the results of exit polls conducted by their activists showed different figures, with Sobyanin receiving 46 percent and Navalny getting as much as 35.6 percent.
“I call upon the Kremlin to announce the second round, like it is ordered by the law. We do not accept the results that have just started to appear,” Navalny told Echo of Moscow.
“If thousands of monitors who work at polling stations tell us
that they face some problems and that the results announced by
the city elections commission is different from what they see in
reality, I think that all normal Muscovites who do not want to
lose the votes they had cast must not keep silent and must, among
all, take to the streets,” the blogger noted.
It should be noted that in mid-July this year Navalny was convicted of major graft committed in 2009 when he worked as a voluntary aide to the governor in the provincial town of Kirov. The judge sentenced Navalny to five years behind bars, but he was released from custody and allowed to take part in elections as the sentence would only come into force after the court considers the appeal by the defense team. The date of hearings into the appeal has not yet been announced.
Navalny’s supporters have already received a city hall license for a rally of 2,500 people on Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square, across the river from the Kremlin, on Monday evening.
The number of people who turned up at the rally was bigger than the 2,500 requested, with police estimating about 9,000, while some reporters claim even more attendees.
At the rally, Navalny thanked all his supporters and said that he personally considered getting every third vote in the poll a victory.The activist also said that he would not yet ask people “to turn over cars for him,” but such moment might arrive some day in the future.
Police reported no incidents of violence or unrest at the Monday rally.
At the end of the day the head of the city elections commission,
Valentin Gorbunov, told reporters that Navalny had not submitted
any official complaints about the violations.“There are no
facts, only general and unproven statements about omnipresent
violations,” he noted.