Navalny wins 30% of vote in Moscow polls
Anti-corruption blogger outperforms all other opposition figures in mayoral election
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks to the media at his campaign headquarters after voting closed in a mayoral election in Moscow yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov
Alexei Navalny, the 37-year-old anti-corruption blogger, has emerged as the only leader capable of mounting a challenge to President Vladimir Putin. By gaining in the region of 30 per cent of the vote in the race for mayor of Moscow he left all other opposition candidates trailing and gave the incumbent pro-Putin mayor Sergei Sobyanin a major shock.
As the count dragged on into the night, it seemed possible Mr Sobyanin might not get the 50 per cent vote needed to win in the first round and avoid a run-off with Mr Navalny – a prospect that few envisaged in the run-up to the vote.
With just 3.7 per cent of the votes counted, the Central Election Commission put Mr Sobyanin on 57.7 per cent against Mr Navalny’s 21.56 but, as the night wore on, Mr Sobyanin’s vote decreased and Mr Navalny’s increased.
The only member of the anti-Putin opposition on the ballot paper, Sergei Mitrokhin of the pro-western Yabloko Party, was trailing on 3 per cent well behind Communist Ivan Melnikov who was taking 10 per cent of the early totals.
In a low turnout, Mr Navalny performed far better than any pre-election poll suggested, winning in most of the city’s central districts but falling behind incumbent mayor Mr Sobyanin in the suburbs.
Free and fair consensus
A remarkable aspect was the general acceptance the vote was free and fair with few complaints of ballot-stuffing or vote-rigging. In previous elections, most notably the parliamentary vote in 2011, vote-rigging in Moscow brought tens of thousands of Muscovites on to the streets with Mr Navalny emerging as their most prominent personality. His campaign office announced it would hold a major rally tonight at Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square, saying it would either be a victory celebration at having forced a second round or an acceptance of defeat in a fair election.
An extremely low poll in which Mr Sobyanin’s supporters appeared to suffer from overconfidence may have played a part in the result.
The low turnout was a striking aspect of polling day in a country where people vote in large numbers. The Levada Centre, Russia’s most trusted opinion pollster, in its last poll before the election had forecast that 18 per cent of those who had definitely decided to vote would support Mr Navalny. It was thought therefore a high poll would reduce Navalny’s percentage share as previously undecided voters would swing towards Mr Sobyanin. What appears to have happened is that Mr Navalny got his voters out and Mr Sobynanin did not.
Polling was very slow right from the start in Moscow. In the stations, I visited there were more officials, more security guards and more observers than voters. Boris Yakunin, the writer of the popular Eras Fandorin detective novels and a vociferous opponent of Mr Putin, tweeted there was “shamefully few” voters.
Early in the day, it was the Navalny supporters who were despondent that so few Muscovites came to the polls. The fact many were still out of town at their dachas caused some to suggest the vote should have been held in October. However, as the day wore on it was the Sobyanin campaign headquarters that made the same suggestions.
At one “station”, there was a 100 per cent turnout. Cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov relayed his vote in the Moscow mayoral election from the International Space Station. .