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  World   Europe  25 Dec 2017  Putin’s most formidable foe in 18 years, Navalny, rises

Putin’s most formidable foe in 18 years, Navalny, rises

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Published : Dec 25, 2017, 2:12 am IST
Updated : Dec 25, 2017, 2:40 am IST

Navalny now needs to be officially registered as a candidate by Russia’s central election commission.

Alexei Navalny
 Alexei Navalny

Moscow: Thousands of Russians on Sunday endorsed the candidacy of Alexei Navalny, seen as the only Russian opposition leader who stands a fighting chance of challenging strongman Vladimir Putin in a March vote.

Thousands of people who back the charismatic 41-year-old lawyer were meeting in 20 Russian cities to nominate him as a candidate in the presence of electoral officials to boost his chances of making the presidential vote.

In Moscow alone, more than 700 people supported Mr Navalny’s candidacy as they gathered in a huge tent set up in a picturesque park on the snow-covered banks of the Moscow River.

“I am hugely happy, I am proud to tell you that I stand here as a candidate of the entire Russia,” the plucky Western-educated lawyer said at the Moscow event, which at times felt like a US campaign conference. “We have seen for ourselves this year that overwhelming support for authorities simply isn’t there,” he told the gathering, flanked by his wife and children, in a US election-like campaign speech.

“We are ready to win and we will win these elections,” Mr Navalny said.

But Mr Navalny now nee-ds to be officially registered as a candidate by Russia’s central election commission, which has previously said he is ineligible due to a suspended prison sentence that he says was politically motivated. Mr Navalny has been jailed three times this year on charges of repeatedly organising public meetings and rallies in violation of existing laws. He says the Kremlin is deliberately trying to thwart his political ambitions.

Polling agencies show 80 per cent support for Putin, which almost certainly guarantees him a win, but Mr Navalny has managed to galvanise some of Russia’s sleepiest regions with a yearlong grass-roots campaign.

Tags: alexei navalny, vladimir putin
Location: Russian Federation, Moscow (City), Moscow