Other Putin rivals have already been barred from standing in an election widely considered a foregone conclusion.
Russia’s main election authority on Thursday refused to allow a politician opposing Moscow’s military action in Ukraine to appear on the ballot in this year’s presidential election.
Boris Nadezhdin, a local legislator in a town near Moscow, was required by law to gather at least 100,000 signatures in support of candidacy. The requirement applies to candidates put forward by political parties that are not represented in the Russian parliament.
The Central Election Commission declared more than 9,000 signatures submitted by Nadezhdin’s campaign invalid, which was enough to disqualify him. Russia’s election rules say potential candidates can have no more than 5% of their submitted signatures thrown out.
Nadezhdin, 60, has openly called for a halt to the conflict in Ukraine and for starting a dialogue with the West.
Thousands of Russians lined up across the country last month to submit signatures backing his candidacy, an unusual show of public opposition in the country’s rigidly controlled political life.
Speaking at the Election Commission on Thursday, Nadezhdin asked election authorities to postpone the decision and to give him more time to rebut their arguments, but they declined. He subsequently said he would challenge his disqualification in court.
On Thursday, Nadezhdin urged his supporters not to give up.
“One thing happened which many could not believe: citizens sensed the possibility of changes in Russia,” the politician wrote in an online statement. “It was you who stood in long lines to declare to the whole world: ‘Russia will be a great and a free country.’ And I represented each of you today in the auditorium of the Central Election Commission.”
Nadezhdin is the second pro-peace hopeful to be denied a presidential bid. In December, the election commission refused to certify the candidacy of Yekaterina Duntsova, a journalist and a former legislator from the Tver region north of Moscow, citing problems such as spelling errors in her nomination paperwork.
Promoting a vision of a Russia “that’s peaceful, friendly and ready to cooperate with everyone on the principle of respect,” Duntsova said she wanted the fighting in Ukraine to come to a swift end and for Moscow and Kyiv to come to the negotiating table.
Stacking the deck
The presidential election is scheduled for March 15-17. President Vladimir Putin is almost certain to win the reelection given his tight control of Russia’s political system. Most of the opposition figures who might have challenged him have been either imprisoned or exiled abroad, and the vast majority of independent Russian media outlets have been banned.
Putin is running as an independent candidate, and his campaign was required to gather at least 300,000 signatures in his support. He was swiftly allowed on the ballot earlier this year, with election officials disqualifying only 91 signatures out of 315,000 his campaign submitted.
Three other candidates registered to run were nominated by parties represented in parliament and thus weren’t required to collect signatures: Nikolai Kharitonov of the Communist Party, Leonid Slutsky of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party and Vladislav Davankov of the New People Party.
The three parties have been largely supportive of the Kremlin’s policies. Kharitonov ran against Putin in 2004, finishing a distant second.