On Christmas, Monday, Russian election officials formally banned leading Putin critic and Russian opposition leader, lawyer Alexei Navalny from running from President.
The ban has started a call to boycott next year’s Russian presidential election vote on March 18th in which current President Vladimir Putin is running for his fourth term and is already the assumed winner since many say that no serious challenger will be allowed to emerge and challenge Putin’s power.
Navalny is viewed as Putin’s most serious challenger to emerge while Putin has held power and has established, and continues to gain grassroots momentum.
Navalny filed his paper to run for Russian President on Christmas Eve.
At the rally after he filed his papers he declared about Putin, “You are a bad president…We are challenging you in this election and we intend to win.”
Over the years when Putin has been in power some of his most vocal critics have suspiciously ended up dead or in prison.
However, Navalny has eluded the fate of other opposition leaders and Putin challengers. He started a very popular anti-corruption blog, started the Anti-Corruption Foundation in 2011, has risen to be a Russian Opposition Coordination Council member and the leader of the political party Progress Party.
He ran for mayor of Moscow in September 2013 and received 27% of the vote which was much higher than anyone predicted. Navalny supporters say the vote count was actually much higher and point to election fraud by the Putin supported Sergei Sobyanin which prevented a runoff election.
The cause of the presidential election ban of Alexei Navalny is due to a conviction in a fraud case which is widely viewed and understood to be political retribution for being outspoken against Putin. Navalny’s brother was also convicted. The Memorial Human Rights Center labels Navalny as a political prisoner.
Navalny has been arrested many times on various charges, mostly related to Navalny pursuing to open up the truth about corporate and political corruption scandals in creative ways. Interestingly, some of Navalny’s convictions have come with suspended prison terms which Putin critics say are to hold leverage over Navalny while simultaneously preventing riots and uprisings from Navalny’s supporters.
Navalny would have been able to run for President if he was given a special waiver or if his conviction was overturned.
Navalny told the commission, before the vote, that their vote to ban him would be “not against me, but against 16,000 people who have nominated me, against 200,000 volunteers who have been canvassing for me.”
In the press conference after the vote he called for the election boycott and said, “The procedure that we’re invited to take part 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 is to vote for lies and corruption.” he added.
Navalny and others have previously said that the fraud conviction was a political move to block his presidential bid to challenge Putin.
To date, Putin has never had a serious challenger to his power which allows the Russian leader to avoid engaging in any substantive discussion about Russian corruption, freedom of press, the deaths and imprisonments of opposition leaders and figures, the manipulation of the Russian economy and political system and other commonly discussed issues on the world stage.