Moscow: Russian anti-war candidate Boris Nadezhdin, who gained unexpected momentum ahead of the upcoming elections in March, has been banned from running against President Vladimir Putin as the central election commission said it found “irregularities” in over 9,000 of more than 100,000 signatures of support submitted by him. This has cleared the way for another term for Putin with no competition.
According to the Guardian, the irregularities found in 9,000 signatures were three times higher than the allowable five per cent error rate and provided grounds for the commission to disqualify him. Responding to the decision, the Kremlin said it had “nothing to add” and that the commission followed all the established rules. This outcome was expected after an election commission working group claimed on Monday that it had found 15 per cent of the supporters’ signatures submitted by Nadezhdin to be invalid.
Nadezhdin said on Telegram that he would appeal to the Supreme Court if the commission refused to register him. Nadezhdin last week presented the electoral commission with signatures from more than 100,000 supporters across Russia as part of his bid to get his name on the ballot paper.
On Friday, the commission said its initial analysis of the signatures showed some of those listed as Nadezhdin supporters were ‘dead people’. Nobody expected Nadezhdin, 60, to win even if he is allowed to participate, given Putin’s long dominance and control of the state.
Who is Boris Nadezhdin?
Nadezhdin is a veteran Russian politician who has associated with Kremlin insiders and the opposition to Putin and has been waging a last-minute campaign to get on the ballot for the election. In his election manifesto, he said Putin had made a “fatal mistake by starting the special military operation” in Ukraine, the Kremlin’s preferred term for its invasion. “Putin sees the world from the past and is dragging Russia into the past,” he said.
His campaign has captured people’s attention because of his outright opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Reacting to his ban from the upcoming elections, Nadezhdin said, “I do not agree with the decision of the central election commission … Participating in the presidential election in 2024 is the most important political decision in my life…I am not backing down from my intentions.”
Many supporters recognised that although he had past ties to the government, they had no other candidate to voice their dissatisfaction with the war. Nadezhdin also received support from allies of Alexei Navalny, who have mostly been jailed or driven from Russia. Meanwhile, Russian state media ramped up its smear campaign against Nadezhdin in recent weeks, which underlined the Kremlin’s concern about the unexpected show of support for a politician who was previously unknown.
Another openly anti-war candidate, Yekaterina Duntsova, has already been disqualified by the elections commission, which refused to accept her nomination because of alleged errors in her paperwork, including spelling mistakes. She and others have shifted their grassroots organising effort to support Nadezhdin.
Russia’s upcoming elections
Kremlin critics say Nadezhdin, who has been a regular guest on state TV programmes discussing the war, would not have been allowed to get this far in such a tightly controlled political system without the authorities’ blessing, something he denies. Still, his outspoken statements about Russia’s war have stoked speculation that he may have crossed an unspoken red line and will be barred from running on a technicality or forced to drop out.
With Putin, 71, in full control of the levers of power, supporters and opponents alike say he will cruise to a new six-year term which, if he completes it, would make him Russia’s longest-serving ruler since the 18th century – outlasting all Soviet rulers including Josef Stalin.
Putin has won previous elections by a landslide, but independent election watchdogs say they were marred by widespread fraud. Meanwhile, the Communist Party, which has finished a distant second to Putin at every election since 2000, named 75-year-old Nikolai Kharitonov as its candidate.
Other two candidates in the Russian elections include nationalist leader Leonid Slutsky and parliament deputy speaker Vladislav Davankov. All their parties have broadly backed Kremlin policies and none of the trio is seen as a genuine challenger.
(with inputs from agencies)
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