Navalny’s poisoning casts shadow over Russia elections

Published September 14, 2020
NOVOSIBIRSK (Russia): Sergei Boiko, the head of Alexei Navalny’s headquarters here and city council candidate, casts his ballot at a polling station on Sunday. — AFP
NOVOSIBIRSK (Russia): Sergei Boiko, the head of Alexei Navalny’s headquarters here and city council candidate, casts his ballot at a polling station on Sunday. — AFP

NOVOSIBIRSK: Russians on Sunday voted in regional elections overshadowed by the poisoning of the main opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who had campaigned for tactical voting to push out the ruling party.

In 41 of the country’s 85 regions, Russians are voting for regional governors and lawmakers in regional and city legislatures as well as in several by-elections for national MPs.

Voters went to the polls on Sunday wearing masks and gloves and undergoing temperature checks to protect against coronavirus infection, journalists saw in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk.

The vote is seen as a test for the Kremlin as the United Russia ruling party that backs President Vladimir Putin faces a popularity crisis amid simmering public anger over falling incomes and economic woes.

In Novosibirsk, Russia’s third largest city, Vladimir Semyonov, a 57-year-old retired army officer, said he had voted for an opposition candidate, “to change something, so we don’t have stagnation”.

The poisoning of Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition figure, could also influence voters. After he was evacuated from Siberia to Berlin, German doctors said he had been poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent.

Navalny has set up an online system to help voters back the strongest candidates against the ruling party, which he calls the “party of swindlers and thieves”. He had been in Siberia to promote his “smart voting” campaign when he fell ill.

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2020

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