The Russian Central Electoral Commission has barred Aleksey Navalny from the presidential elections scheduled on March. But this is not the news. The possibilities in fact that the world famous opposition figure had to challenge Putin were non-existent. It is rather the sign that the Kremlin no longer even needs to maintain an appearance of free elections.
The thirteen members of the Central Electoral Commission played like the hunter posing in a picture next to a lion died of old age.
It was an easy decision, given that a sentence of five years in prison for corruption hangs over Navalny’s head. A conviction for an accusation, says the former candidate, politically motivated and against whom he appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.
The decision was so obvious that Navalny himself prerecorded his reaction in a video already on the eve of the Commission ruling. “The procedure that we’re invited to participate in is not an election. Only Putin and his hand-picked candidates are taking part in it. Going to the polls right now is to vote for lies and corruption“, he said, just before calling Russians to boycott the elections. “We are declaring a strike by voters. We will ask everyone to boycott these elections. We will not recognize the result”.
Navalny immediately got a (poisoned) endorsement. Ksenia Sobchak – a journalist of liberal ideas, daughter of a Putin’s close ally and an independent candidate for the presidential race – gave him a place in his electoral campaign, asking him not to boycott the elections.
“It would be a monstrous injustice. Elections are still the only way to change anything. Boycotting them is inefficient and harmful“, Sobchak wrote on Instagram just after Navalny’s video.
Many observers are convinced that Sobchak’s candidacy is just a page of the plot written by the Kremlin to make the elections seem legitimate and to pulverize the opposition vote.
Already in September, the newspaper Vedomosti wrote that the presidential administration was considering asking Sobchak for candidacy.
“It’s a lie,” she wrote on her blog. “I have never had any direct or indirect contact with the presidency over this issue. I do not need their blessing”.
Sobchak’s father, Anatoly, was a prominent figure, mayor of St. Petersburg in the 90’s when Putin was his deputy. And Putin himself has told on many occasions he is in debt to him.
Sobchak’s candidacy is for some only a makeup operation to refresh the image of “friendly opposition”.
Navalny didn’t respond to Sobchak’s offer. Meanwhile, he appealed against the decision of the Central Election Commission, although he knew he had very few chances. “Obviously we will appeal to the Constitutional Court, even if we are perfectly aware of the fact that it is part of the system”.
The same system against which Navalny managed to build a network of 83 offices and about 200,000 volunteers across the country. And on the day of his candidacy to collect the 15 thousand signatures required in 20 different cities, as required by law.
That system today is no longer willing to ride the slightest risk of ruining the party announced for Putin’s fourth term. And at the same time, that system today seems less concerned with maintaining a semblance of democratic presidential elections.
So much so that we could skip the announced investiture of 2018 and go already to the expiration of the mandate in 2024. We have already seen how, 12 years ago, the limit of the two consecutive terms was bypassed with the Putin-Medvedev relay. In six years, Tsar Vladimir may not have as much time available.
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