MOSCOW, July 4 — Moscow’s current Kremlin-backed mayor Sergei Sobyanin will face no real challengers in elections this year, after vocal opposition figures failed to clear hurdles to run against him by a deadline yesterday.
Moscow’s last mayoral election in 2013 saw opposition leader Alexei Navalny almost force a run-off vote despite going up against the full weight of the Kremlin machine. But no such surprises will be allowed this time round.
Former opposition deputy Dmitry Gudkov said he had failed to gather the number of signatures required from local elected officials to make the ballot.
Opposition activist Ilya Yashin, as well as journalist and gay rights activist Anton Krasovsky, also said they were unable to pass signature thresholds, news agencies reported.
“The miracle has not come to pass. Sobyanin has decided not to allow me to stand for mayor of Moscow,” Gudkov wrote on his Facebook page.
“I consider these elections illegitimate and I will not recognise the results,” he said, adding that he was turning his attention to local parliament elections where there are currently fewer restrictions on who can run.
“To be honest I was never under any illusions, but I am used to going to the end. The only political force which is capable of standing up to the mayor’s office is us,” he added.
Sobyanin, who has held the post since 2010, will face up to four candidates from parties that offer no significant opposition to the Kremlin in the September vote.
These will come from the Communist Party, the nationalist LDPR and A Just Russia groups, as well as The Union of Citizens, pending the approval of their registration documents.
The last term of Russian President Vladimir Putin was marked by a crackdown on the opposition and this looks set to continue into his fourth Kremlin mandate following his reelection in March.
Lawmakers have already moved to restrict internet freedoms. Many opposition figures organise online as they are barred from state media.
Navalny himself last month finished serving a 30-day jail term for organising protests against Putin’s fourth inauguration.
The 42-year-old was barred from standing against Putin in presidential elections this year because of a previous conviction supporters say was politically motivated. — AFP