Opposition blogger Aleksey Navalny could be expelled from the Moscow mayoral race over “numerous violations” in his campaign, a top election official said.
The statement came after a court rejected Navalny’s own lawsuit against the incumbent, acting Mayor Sergey Sobyanin’s participation in the poll.
The Moscow City Elections Commission is currently conducting a probe into Navalny’s promotion methods and if it shows that the committed violations exceeded the allowed norms Navalny’s candidacy would be annulled, the head of the commission, Valentin Gorbunov announced on Thursday.
In particular, the officials were looking into reports that Navalny’s team had used money from sources other than the official elections fund to print and distribute leaflets and newspapers, which is against the law. In addition, some of these promotion materials bore no information about their production, which is also a violation.
The incidents were mentioned in last week’s scandal that emerged after another mayoral candidate, Nikolay Levichev of the Fair Russia party, asked police to check an apartment in the city center that was allegedly used as a base by Navalny’s supporters.
Law enforcers had to remove the door with a circular saw as the people inside refused to open it. After gaining access, officers seized about two tons of illegal campaign materials, according to the police press service. The activists were detained and either fined or put under arrest for several days.
Navalny’s official HQ said it had nothing to do with the activists, who acted completely on their own. At the same time they noted that the activities of these semiofficial supporters, who call themselves “Navalny’s Brothers” were within the framework of the law.
However, the Moscow Elections Commission noted in the Thursday statement that both the marked and the unmarked campaign materials were discovered in the apartment with Navalny’s Brothers.
Also on Thursday, the Moscow City Court rejected the lawsuit filed by Navalny in which the opposition blogger claimed that Sobyanin had no right to run in this year’s poll.
Navalny explained in his blog that according to the Russian law if the head of the region voluntary resigns from his post he can only take part in the subsequent elections on the personal approval of the president. The blogger wrote that his team of lawyers could not find an official document proving such approval and thus demanded that Sobyanin is removed from the race.
Almost immediately the Moscow Elections Commission issued a statement saying that all Sobyanin’s registration papers were in order. Shortly afterwards the commission’s press service circulated a scan of Sergey Sobyanin’s application as a candidate with the handwritten approval and signature of President Vladimir Putin.
This took place after Navalny had already launched the lawsuit application procedure and explains the court’s decision to reject the claim.
The Moscow mayoral elections are due on September 8 – the nearest universal election day in Russia. Six candidates run in the poll. The favorites are the incumbent acting mayor Sergey Sobyanin, who runs independent despite strong ties with parliamentary majority party United Russia.
Aleksey Navalny runs on the ticket of liberal pro-market bloc RPR-Parnas (Republican Party of Russia and Party of People’s Freedom) and his campaign concentrates over constantly charging opponents with corruption and abuse of office.
It should be noted that shortly ahead of the election Navalny was sentenced to five years in prison for graft that, according to prosecutors, took place in 2009 when he worked as a voluntary aide to the governor of the provincial town of Kirov.
Navalny was jailed for one day after the sentence was announced, but was subsequently released at prosecutors’ insistence as Russian law provides that suspects in economic crimes should not be put in custody and the sentence is not considered fully valid until the defense exhausts all possibilities for appeals.
According to the latest poll conducted by the VTSIOM public opinion center, Sobyanin leads the mayoral race with a decisive 54 percent of supporters, while Navalny is second with 9 percent. Navalny’s own headquarters claims different figures, but still acknowledges Sobyanin’s dominance with 44 against 25 percent of supporters.
The support results of the other four candidates are negligible as they range from 1 to 4 percent.