That’s how Masha Lipman assessed Alexey Navalny’s run for mayor of Moscow prior to the voting yesterday:
The system may have let Navalny run, but his campaign has unfolded in a difficult environment. Moscow officials have made public announcements accusing him of irregularities and campaign-policy violations (none of the allegations have been substantiated). Navalny personally was alleged to be hiding his ownership of real estate abroad—but no solid evidence was presented. Police raided an apartment where Navalny supporters allegedly kept “illegal” campaign materials; the door to the apartment was broken, and two young men were detained for ten days. No one explained what was illegal about the materials. Stacks of campaign newspapers have routinely been stolen. At one of his neighborhood meetings, Navalny himself was seized by the police and driven away. He was released shortly thereafter with no explanation.
Muscovites who decorated their apartment balconies with Navalny banners received visits from municipal officials or police, who demanded that slogans be removed. On several occasions, “visitors” emerged on straps outside the apartments, like window-washers but with cutting equipment. At least once, a “hanging visitor” physically threatened the host in a highly expletive manner. Episodes of similar harassment were reported day in and day out.
According to the official election results, Navalny ended up with 27 percent of the vote. Timothy Frye sees his strong showing as an embarrassment to Putin-backed incumbent Sergei Sobyanin, who narrowly achieved a first-round victory:
Sobyanin, who was thought to be generally popular in Moscow, a city that has prospered in recent years, likely thought that he could coast to victory against an inexperienced candidate with little organization in a very short campaign without relying on the most crude forms of falsification. Earning an easy victory in an election against a “real” opposition figure could have greatly increased Sobyanin’s standing – perhaps even as a potential successor to President Putin. Yet in squeaking by with just over 51% of the vote, Sobyanin returns to office diminished. Navalny, on the other hand, may end up in jail but by beating expectations he cemented his position as a leader of the opposition.
The runner-up is requesting a recount:
Navalny said he does not recognize the results, which he said were falsified. He insisted Sobyanin polled less than 50 percent and should have faced a runoff.
Previous Dish on Navalny and his arrest this summer here.
(Photo: Opposition candidate in Moscow’s mayoral race, Alexei Navalny, speaks to the media at his campaign headquarters in Moscow, on September 9, 2013. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny warned of protests after narrowly failing to push Moscow’s pro-Kremlin mayor into a run-off in tight elections he claimed were rigged. By Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images)