Support for the candidature of political activist Alexei Antolievich Navalny has been gaining momentum ever since Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his decision to contest in the 2018 presidential election.
Alexei Navalny, billed as Russia’s most popular Opposition leader, now stands between Putin and his bid to become president for a record fourth time. However, Putin’s approval ratings, currently at 80 per cent (Associated Press), leave little room for manoeuvre for Navalny.
Who is Alexei Navalny?
Navalny has been at the forefront of the demonstrations against the Putin administration, especially after the assassination of Boris Nemtsov, a vocal critic of Putin’s alleged abuse of power and corruption.
The 41-year-old opposition leader gained prominence in the Russian politics after his blog became a popular voice of dissent after 2008. The blog continues to be his most preferred medium to reach out to the public. The political activist has been arrested multiple times by the Russian authorities on charges of embezzlement and fraud, an accusation that Navalny has repeatedly denied.
In a radio interview in 2011, Navalny called United Russia Party (Russia’s ruling party), a ‘party of crooks and thieves’. This description by Navalny has become a catchphrase and has been in vogue amongst those who oppose Putin’s leadership. Navalny is the founder of Anti-Corruption Foundation, an organisation that attempts to oust the alleged corrupt regime from the Kremlin.
Navalny’s presidential bid
An estimated number of 800 supporters of Navalny nominated him for the presidential election on Christmas. The supporters assembled in Moscow at a formal event to endorse Navalny’s candidature.
Russian constitution requires presidential candidates to submit public endorsements from at least 500 people. After this condition is met, the candidates need to collect a minimum of 10,00000 signatures which are a prerequisite for the candidate to make his/her way to the electoral list.
His bid, however, is likely to be rejected as Russian laws bar a candidate from contesting elections if he/she has been convicted in the past.