Top court up­holds Rus­sian elec­tion ban on op­po­si­tion leader

The National - News - - NEWS -

Rus­sia’s high­est court yes­ter­day up­held the elec­tion com­mis­sion’s de­ci­sion to bar op­po­si­tion leader Alexei Navalny from run­ning for pres­i­dent in the March elec­tion.

The supreme court in Moscow turned down Mr Navalny’s ap­peal against the move, rul­ing the de­ci­sion to bar him fully con­formed to Rus­sian law.

Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, whose ap­proval rat­ings are more than 80 per cent, is set to eas­ily win a fourth term in the March 18 vote.

Mr Navalny cam­paigned for the pres­i­dency all year de­spite an im­plicit ban on his can­di­dacy due to a fraud con­vic­tion re­garded by many as po­lit­i­cally driven. Elec­tion of­fi­cials for­mally barred him from the bal­lot on Mon­day. He re­sponded to the ban by call­ing for a boy­cott of the bal­lot.

Mr Navalny re­sponded to yes­ter­day’s court rul­ing by re­peat­ing his call for a “vot­ers’ strike”.

“We don’t ac­knowl­edge elec­tions with­out com­pe­ti­tion,” he said on Twit­ter.

Oth­ers have said they will run, in­clud­ing cam­paign vet­er­ans – ul­tra-na­tion­al­ist Vladimir Zhiri­novsky and lib­eral Grig­ory Yavlin­sky – as well as com­mu­nist nom­i­nee Pavel Gru­dinin and TV host Kse­nia Sobchak.

While none of them pose a chal­lenge to Mr Putin, the Krem­lin is wor­ried about voter ap­a­thy and has fo­cused on boost­ing turnout.

The in­volve­ment of Sobchak, 36, the daugh­ter of the late mayor of St Peters­burg who was Mr Putin’s boss in the 1990s, could raise pub­lic in­ter­est in the race.

She has de­nied col­lud­ing with the Krem­lin but her par­tic­i­pa­tion could draw some of Mr Navalny’s sup­port­ers to her side and help to im­prove turnout.

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