Banned from Russian election, Alexei Navalny calls for boycott

 Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner and President Putin's most prominent rival, called for a boycott. The Kremlin hinted that the call might be illegal. 

(Evgeny Feldman/Navalny Campaign via AP)
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who submitted papers necessary for his registration as a presidential candidate, stands at the Russia's Central Election commission in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Dec. 25, 2017. Russian election officials have formally barred Navalny from running for president.

The Kremlin hinted Tuesday at possible legal repercussions for Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny over his calls for a boycott of the March presidential election.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, wouldn't comment on the Election Commission's decision to bar Mr. Navalny from running but said the "calls for boycott ought to be carefully studied to see if they are breaking the law."

As expected, Russia's top election body on Monday formally barred Navalny from a presidential run. Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner and Putin's most prominent rival, promptly put out a video statement saying that the ban shows "Putin is terribly scared and is afraid of running against me." He called on supporters to stay away from the vote in protest.

Meanwhile, Putin's backers convened Tuesday afternoon to formally nominate him for presidency after he announced that he will run as an independent candidate.

Prominent lawmakers, film actors, musicians and athletes gathered at a Soviet-era exhibition hall to endorse him. Putin did not attend because of other engagements, Peskov said.

Putin, who has been in power for 18 years and is expected to easily win another six-year term, has so far refrained from campaigning. As The Christian Science Monitor reported earlier this month, many say that this will be Putin's last turn in this particular role. Russia’s constitution, which he has previously honored – after a fashion – limits a president to two consecutive terms.

Yet after nearly 18 years in power, including a four-year hiatus (when he occupied the job of prime minister) while his place-holder Dmitry Medvedev held the office, no obvious successor has been groomed. Nor has any reliable mechanism been established, democratic or otherwise, that would guarantee a stable transition if Putin were to exit the stage.

Navalny, meanwhile, has been aggressively seeking votes all year, reaching out to the most remote parts of the country.

Peskov rejected suggestions that Navalny's absence from the ballot could dent the legitimacy of Putin's possible re-election.
Russian law doesn't specifically prohibit someone from calling for an election boycott, but authorities last year blocked access to several websites that did so.

Navalny rose to prominence in 2009 with investigations into official corruption and became a protest leader when hundreds of thousands took to the streets across Russia in 2011 to protest electoral fraud.

A few years later, and after several short-term spells in jail, Navalny faced two separate sets of fraud charges, which were viewed as political retribution aimed at stopping him from running for office. In his only official campaign before his first conviction took effect, Navalny garnered 30 percent of the vote in the race for Moscow mayor in 2013.

The European Union said in a statement on Tuesday the decision to keep Navalny off the ballot "casts a serious doubt on political pluralism in Russia and the prospect of democratic elections next year."

The EU's spokeswoman for foreign affairs, Maja Kocijancic, pointed to a European Court of Human Rights ruling that Navalny was denied the right to a fair trial when he was convicted in 2013.

"Politically motivated charges shouldn't be used against political participation," Kocijancic said.
___
Lorne Cook contributed to this report from Brussels.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.