Russian officials on Tuesday refused to register nearly 30 candidates for elections to Moscow’s local parliament including prominent critics of President Vladimir Putin despite protests over the move.
Opposition politicians have been fighting to get on the ballot for September’s elections to the Moscow city legislature as they seek to capitalise on growing public discontent over falling living standards and unchecked corruption.
But many observers say authorities have used spurious reasons to prevent popular allies of opposition leader Alexei Navalny from running for the Russian capital’s legislature.
On Tuesday, Moscow election officials said they had rejected 27 candidates so far while 216 candidates had been registered for the September 8 election.
Officials are expected to rule on the remaining 47 candidates by the end of the day.
One of the most prominent opposition figures, Ilya Yashin, who is now a local councillor, said late Monday he had been barred from running.
Other Kremlin critics including Navalny ally Lyubov Sobol and former MP Dmitry Gudkov were expecting to be disqualified Tuesday.
The final list of candidates was set to be published on Wednesday.
Opposition candidates denied official accusations that they had faked some of the signatures of supporters that they were legally obliged to present in order to stand.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed reports of alleged efforts by electoral officials to prevent the opposition from standing in the vote, saying only a court could determine that.
“If there are any objections or complaints, one can always go to court,” Peskov told reporters. “So far, any other conclusions are nothing but rhetoric.”
The opposition has vowed to stage daily protests demanding registration of candidates.
“We should dig in our heels, we should resist,” Yashin told hundreds of supporters in a furious speech at a rally Monday.
“I won’t give up without a fight, God damn it,” said the 36-year-old who is the most popular candidate in his district according to polls.
Some 7.2 million Muscovites are eligible to vote to elect 45 lawmakers to the Moscow parliament, which is currently dominated by ruling party United Russia and rarely opposes Kremlin-allied mayor Sergei Sobyanin.