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Russian Commission Rules Navalny Can't Run For President

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny in court in Moscow on June 16
Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny in court in Moscow on June 16

Russian election officials have barred opposition leader Aleksei Navalny from participating in the March 2018 presidential election, citing a criminal conviction that Navalny has said was politically motivated to block him from running.

In a statement issued on June 23, the Central Election Commission said that "Navalny does not have passive suffrage," making him ineligible to run for public office.

In 2013, Navalny was given a five-year suspended sentence on a large-scale embezzlement charge in a case he says was engineered by the Kremlin to prevent him from challenging Russian President Vladimir Putin for the presidency.

The Supreme Court threw out the initial conviction last year, but Navalny was convicted again in a retrial and lost an appeal against that verdict last month.

On June 14, Russia's top election commission chief Ella Pamfilova said Navalny was almost certain to be barred from the presidential election, citing the criminal conviction.

In an interview on Russian channel Dozhd TV, Pamfilova said Navalny "has no chance of being registered for the election due to his conviction."

She said it was possible "a miracle might happen and [Navalny] might file an appeal," but she said he has "practically no chance of being registered."

The Central Election Commission's ruling appears unlikely to stop Navalny from campaigning ahead of the vote, in which Putin is widely expected to seek and secure a fourth term in office.

Navalny is an anticorruption crusader and political opponent of Putin who has organized nationwide street protests twice since March. He has been campaigning for the presidency despite statements by officials who have said his conviction on the financial-crimes charge means he cannot seek office.

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