Liberal Opposition Leader Barred From Running in Russian Election

Posted January 27th, 2012 at 4:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Russian officials have barred liberal opposition leader Grigory Yavlinsky from running for president against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin because of alleged problems with his registration forms.

The central elections commission said Friday that about 25 percent of the signatures gathered to back Yavlinsky's candidacy were invalid.

Yavlinsky, leader of the Yabloko party, said the decision was made to help those in power win the presidential elections in March.


“The essence of this decision is to create mostly comfortable conditions for the current team in power and mostly comfortable conditions to hold presidential elections. As result of it, the decisions made are significantly increasing the gap between society and the authorities, the decisions are significantly lowering the citizens' trust in those authorities which will be formed as a result of the elections.''

On Monday, Yavlinsky said a ban on his candidacy would insult tens of thousands of protesters who have recently taken to the streets of major Russian cities to demand political reforms and fair elections.

Alexei Mitrofanov, a lawmaker from “Just Russia” party, expressed a similar sentiment.

“Yavlinsky has electoral support, he should be allowed to participate, but they don't want it because the election scenario is ready, that is the (Russian Prime Minster Vladimir Putin's) victory in the first round, and a candidate such as Yavlinsky disturbs the balance of votes, which are probably well counted beforehand, and that's why nobody needs his participation.''

The 59-year-old economist needed to gather 2 million signatures to qualify to run against Mr. Putin, the overwhelming presidential favorite. The signatures were required because Yavlinsky's Yabloko party failed to win any parliamentary seats in disputed December elections.

The head of the central election commission, Vladimir Churov, defended Russia's voting system, saying it has been improved to ensure fairness and transparency.

“We launched the modernization of the election system, which was offered by (Russian President) Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev four years ago. You know that more than 5,000 polling stations were equipped with electronic voting devices and, for the first time ever, with the system of constant Internet transmission of the vote counting procedure. For the first time, seven parties got a lot of (free) airtime for their TV campaigns as well as 17 full pages in newspapers each.''

In Washington, a spokeswoman for the State department said the United States is disappointed with Russia's decision to deny Yavlinsky the right to run in the presidential election.

“Open political competition requires that electoral laws be applied fairly to all parties and candidates. Russians, like Americans and people everywhere, seek free, fair, transparent elections and a genuine choice when they go to the ballot box.”

If Mr. Putin regains the presidency, the 59-year-old leader could serve two more six-year terms and remain in power until 2024. He was first elected president in 2000 and held that post until 2008, when he assumed the post of prime minister due to term limits.