Protests break out in Russian capital after most opposition candidates are excluded from the upcoming municipal elections. Almost 40 people are arrested amid police violence and threats. The head of the Moscow Election Commission tells complainants to go to court.
Moscow (AsiaNews) – Various protests have taken place in Moscow in recent days, after most opposition candidates were excluded from local municipal elections on 8 September. The Moscow City Duma (council) includes 45 members who are elected on single-mandate constituency basis. Many candidates with Putin's party and Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, who was re-elected last year to a second term, were at risk of losing to the opposition.
The main opposition candidates were excluded for decidedly specious reasons, such as small clerical errors in signatures and forms, which sparked the anger of many of Moscow’s nearly 8 million voters. Among those exclude, some are also well-known names, such as footballer Dmitri Bulykin and actor Andrey Sokolov, as well as some members of Alexei Navalny’s movement and the liberal Yabloko party and other opposition figures like Dmitry Gudkov.
Nearly 40 protesters were arrested, and many others were victims of police brutality.
Moscow Election Commission president Valentin Gorbunov said that 187 applications were accepted out of 292. In total, there are 130 candidates from parties already present in the council, with Putin’s United Russia being the largest. Complaints by those excluded will be examined tomorrow.
According to Gorbunov, “the commission has already allowed the necessary corrections to the forms; only those whose errors could not be remedied, such as the signatures of dead or non-existent people were excluded; in any case, candidates can apply to the court, without organising pressure actions on the commission's work."
The "pressures" were actually unauthorised demonstrations. People shouted ‘Let's go to jail for honest elections!’ knowing that they would be subjected to arrest and harsh police repression.
The protests began in central Moscow, at Novopushkinskiy Skver (Square), where about a thousand people gathered for a meeting between city councillors and voters, and then moved to the City Council building to ask for a meeting with Mayor Sobyanin, who was in fact at his country villa for the week-end.
In the evening, protesters tried to set up tents in the building’s courtyard where the electoral commission is located, but were brutally removed by security forces. About 40 people were arrested, including candidates Ilya Yashin, Lyubov Sobol, Yulia Galyamina and Ivan Zhdanov.
Yashin said that "the Russian people are normally peaceful and silent, but not forever. So we are here and we will not leave". The crowd responded by shouting "Dopuskaj!" (Admit them!), i.e. let the excluded candidates run.
Lyubov Sobol, who works with Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, spoke last, calling on protesters to move to the commission building.
Navalny was not present at the protest. He was released from prison shortly before after he was detained for a previous protest in favour of journalist Ivan Golunov. The latter had been arrested after police planted drugs in his rucksack as was later shown in court.