Russian election officials under Vladimir Putin formally barred Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny from running for president, prompting calls from him for a boycott of next year’s vote.
The Central Election Commission decided unanimously that the anti-corruption crusader isn’t eligible to run.
Navalny is implicitly barred from running for office because of a conviction in a fraud case which has been viewed as political retribution. He could have run if he was given a special dispensation or if his conviction was cancelled. It is widely believed that the charges are baseless, and are simply a rue to prevent him from running. Without opposition, Putin is set to easily win a fourth term in office in the March 18 election.
Over the past year, Navalny has mounted a grassroots campaign which reached out to the most remote corners of Putin’s heartland. Navalny, 41 is the most serious challenger that Putin has faced in all his years in power.
In a pre-recorded video message that was released minutes after the Election Commission handed down the decision, Navalny called on his supporters to boycott the vote.