Opposition activist Aleksey Navalny cannot take part in the 2018 presidential race because of his unserved sentence, the Central Elections Commission announced on Monday. Navalny responded with a call to boycott the polls.
During the announcement, members of the commission specified that the election convention that endorsed Navalny’s candidacy on Sunday was conducted in strict accordance with the law and his papers were in order, but Russian law forbids people with unserved lengthy prison sentences from participating as candidates.
In 2014, Navalny was placed on a five-year probation period for his role in a $500,000 embezzlement scheme involving the international cosmetics company Yves Rocher. In August, another year was added to that. Moreover, Navalny is currently serving a five-year suspended sentence handed down in 2013 for a fraud scheme involving state-run timber company Kirovles.
Navalny addressed the commission with a heated speech asking them “to do the right thing once in their lives” but the head of the body, Ella Pamfilova, harshly replied that she and her colleagues had the same right to hold a political position as everyone else, but the registration procedure was regulated by a clear and unambiguous law.
“You are raising funds illegally and you are turning young people into morons. You can dress me in a uniform or paint a beard on my face in pictures, but I am still ready to meet your voters, despite all insults that you are allowing yourself to make,” Pamfilova said at the Central Elections Commission session.
The official was referring to Navalny’s practice of fundraising through the internet in which the activist claimed that he had the right to run for presidency. In late November a court in Moscow ruled in favor of a man who demanded that Navalny’s elections headquarters return his $860 donation and pay $30 more in court fees. The plaintiff claimed he had donated the money to Navalny’s presidential campaign, but after the transfer was completed he learned that Russian law precludes the activist – or indeed any person with an unserved criminal sentence – from becoming a presidential candidate.
At the Sunday convention, Navalny threatened that the rejection of his application for the election would trigger a “voters’ strike” and on Monday he called upon other would-be participants of the 2018 race to quit as a sign of protest. In a video message posted on his web-site the activist said that he and his allies would not dissolve the election headquarters but will use it for promotion of ideas seeking to undermine voter turnout as well as general trust in the country’s political system. He added a promise to contest the rejection in court. “Definitely, unconditionally we will appeal this decision in a court. In the Constitutional Court and everywhere in the world where it is possible,” Navalny told reporters.
Navalny was not the only hopeful whose application was rejected on Monday. The Central Elections Commission also turned down the bid of journalist Oleg Lurie, also over an unserved sentence, as well as that of former billionaire developer Sergey Polonsky – a brief check revealed that the businessman had not mentioned the real estate that belongs to his wife in the application documents.
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