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Russia's Navalny calls for election boycott

December 25, 2017

The anti-corruption advocate is vowing to appeal the election commission's ruling. Navalny has already called for a nationwide boycott of the vote in March; he's ineligible to stand due to recent convictions.

Head shot of Russia's opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Image: picture-alliance/Tass/Sergei Fadeichev

Russia's leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny has called on Russians to boycott next year's presidential election, even as he vows to appeal a government ruling barring him from the campaign.

 "I assure you, a huge amount of people will not go to this election, would actively boycott this election," Navalny said.

The Central Election Commission voted unanimously on Monday to ban Navalny from the 2018 campaign because of a criminal conviction in a fraud case, which Navalny considers a politically trumped-up charge to keep him out of politics.

"Navalny's crime qualifies as "serious" and therefore rids the individual of the right to stand for president," said commission member Boris Ebzeyev ahead of the vote, urging the body to bar him from running.

The commission's ruling comes just a day after Navalny applied to run for president, calling on supporters around the country to show their support for his bid.

Thousands of Navalny's raise rad cards to show support for Navalny's presidential bid a day earlier.
Thousands of Navalny's supporters came out Sunday to voice support for his presidential bidImage: Reuters/M. Shemetov

Navalny argued previously before the commission that the European Court of Human Rights had lifted his conviction, and told the commission that banning him from the March 18 election would render it illegitimate.

President Vladimir Putin had to take a four-year hiatus as prime minister from 2008 to 2012, but has effectively ruled Russia for the past 17 years. Seeking a fourth term as president would provide him a mandate until 2024.

Putin, 65, is widely expected to win re-election, irrespective of whether the 41-year-old Navalny is allowed to run.

Should he succeed, he would become Russia's longest serving leader since Josef Stalin.

Navalny: 'Together we will lead Russia to a better future'

Russian law prohibits people with a criminal conviction from running for president but the commission could have given Navalny a special dispensation that would allow him to run. Likewise a court could cancel his conviction. Navalny has said he will push for a mass boycott of the election if he is not allowed to compete.

"The procedure that we're invited to take part in is not an election," he said. "Only Putin and the candidates he has hand-picked are taking part in it."

"Going to the polls right now," he said, "is to vote for lies and corruption."

bik/msh (AP, Reuters, AFP)