Opposition leader asserts broad problems in Moscow mayoral race
MOSCOW — The Russian opposition leader, Aleksei A. Navalny, on Thursday submitted to a court more than 50,000 pages of documents illustrating what he said were irregularities in Sunday’s voting in the Moscow mayor’s race in an attempt to prove that he won enough votes to force a runoff against the incumbent, Sergei S. Sobyanin.
But the court refused to block the inauguration of Sobyanin, who barely cleared the threshold for an outright victory with 51.4 percent. He was sworn in on Thursday evening during a ceremony in the city’s World War II museum. According to the official returns, Navalny placed second with 27.2 percent.
Yet, even as Navalny and his aides lugged 21 boxes of documents to the courthouse, they acknowledged not only that there was little hope of overturning the results, but that the voting had been relatively fair. So they have adopted a new message: while the vote was generally free of blatant fraud like ballot stuffing, the election itself was rigged from the beginning.
“Our position is that these were unfair elections,” Navalny’s campaign manager, Leonid Volkov, said in an interview. “We were under pressure. They hampered us and our contractors, cut down our banners, broke our cars, stole our newspaper, didn’t let us work. They pressured us with administrative resources, were constantly on television, gave out groceries.”
At the rally on Monday, Navalny admitted feeling overwhelmed by his opponent’s resources.
“Each time when I am asked, ‘Do you believe in victory?’ I would say, ‘I believe in victory, I believe that we can win these elections,’? Navalny said. “But somewhere there was still the thought that it was impossible, that they have television, they have huge amounts of money, they can smear us all on the television shows. But what do we have?”
Although Sobyanin has repeatedly said that the elections were fair and honest, his insistence has only served to confirm the widespread belief that previous elections were rigged.