It was foreseeable that President Vladimir Putin would not allow Alexei Navalni, his main political adversary, to run for president in March 2018. But, since Putin wants to prove he is unbeatable at the polls and has no rivals, Navalni hoped that they allowed him to attend. It has not been like that.

The Central Electoral Commission of Russia (Tsik) decided yesterday almost unanimously to reject the request of the anti-corruption blogger to be registered as a candidate. It was alleged that his candidacy has no validity due to having a criminal record. The decision was supported by 12 members of the TsIK. Only one of them, Nikolai Levichev, avoided taking part in the vote.

Navalni himself and the rest of the opposition forces see Putin directly behind the ruling of the Electoral Commission. The president of TsIK, Ella Pamfilova, accused the opposition leader of “brainwashing young Russians” and “receiving money from illegal sources”. The official propaganda constantly promotes the idea that Navalni would have no chance before Putin in an election. But, just in case, the Kremlin has decided not to take risks. Not only now closing the way to the elections, but trying to hinder their political activity.

In such situation, Navalni called yesterday to the boycott of the elections. “There will not be a choice -as there are no options-. Putin is very scared. He is afraid to confront me (…) he has ordered his servants of the TsIK to deny me the registration”, he declared in an appeal broadcast through a video. According to his words, “on March 18, in the elections, only Putin and those candidates chosen by him will participate”. “I represent a large number of voters. The decision of the TsIK to prohibit me from participating in the elections excludes millions of people from the elections and from the political system”, he warned. Navalni said referring to the Russian authorities, they “stole millions of votes and continue to do the same. Before falsifying the ballots and now because the electoral result is known in advance, since they do not allow the candidates to participate in the elections”.

Putin has been campaigning since the middle of the year with a lot of fuss and presenting himself as the only viable candidate, who is expecting an overwhelming “triumph” in March. But the veto of Navalni will undoubtedly obscure his image, at least in face of the rest of the world.

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