Putin ally Sobyanin wins Moscow mayoral election
Opposition leader claims results of poll falsified as 99% of ballots counted
Participants hold placards and celebrate during a rally for supporters of current Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin after voting in a mayoral election in Moscow on September 8th, 2013. Photograph: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters
An ally of president Vladimir Putin won Moscow’s mayoral election on Sunday, nearly complete results showed, but opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s unexpectedly strong showing could alarm the Kremlin and fuel Russia’s flagging protest movement.
Early returns allowed Sergei Sobyanin to say he was certain of victory, and results released by the electoral commission after a nearly complete count showed him narrowly clearing the 50 per cent barrier needed to win outright.
But Mr Navalny said the results had been falsified and that his campaign team’s figures showed Mr Sobyanin had fallen short of the mark in Sunday’s voting, meaning the two should face each other in a second-round runoff.
“We do not accept the results that are being announced, and we will not give up a single vote that we received,” said Mr Navalny, a 37-year-old anti-corruption campaigner who emerged from a wave of anti-Putin protests as the opposition’s leader.
The results put Mr Navalny on 27.3 per cent but he said his real support was at 35 per cent.
His remarks raise the prospect of a new electoral dispute in Russia after protests stalled last year when Mr Putin, a former Soviet spy who has been in power since 2000, won a third presidential term and took a tough line on dissent.
“It is already clear now that the vote count was conducted with many serious violations, and so we consider the official results of the election to be deliberately falsified,” the opposition campaign said in a later statement after the bulk of the results were in.
Candidates from United Russia, which dominates politics nationwide, won most of the more than 7,000 regional and local contests held across Russia on Sunday, but there was another sign of resistance in the big Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg where opposition candidate Yevgeny Roizman was on track to narrowly defeat the ruling party favourite. With more than 99 per cent of the vote counted in
Moscow, the still preliminary results gave 55-year-old Sobyanin 51.27 per cent of votes and Navalny 27.3 per cent.
Two exit polls earlier had put Navalny on about 30 percent of votes. A low turnout of around 33 per cent helped boost his numbers because the young people who form the bedrock of his support voted in droves and there was less mobilisation among elderly, more conservative voters.
Even if Mr Navalny’s challenge of the outcome does not succeed, such figures strike a blow for the opposition after a Western-style campaign that appeared to take the Kremlin and Mr Navalny’s rivals by surprise with its energy and professionalism.
“We’ve both voted for Navalny. We like some things about him but first and foremost we really don’t like the authorities,” said Irina, a woman in her 40s who works in manufacturing and who voted with her father.