Russia’s main election authority has banned an anti-war candidate from standing in the country’s upcoming presidential election.
Boris Nadezhdin, a local legislator in a town near Moscow, was required by law to gather at least 100,000 signatures in support of his candidacy.
But the Central Election Commission said more than 9,000 signatures submitted by Mr Nadezhdin’s campaign were invalid, which was enough to disqualify him.
Russia‘s election rules state that potential candidates can have no more than 5% of their signatures thrown out.
Mr Nadezhdin, 60, has called for a halt to the war in Ukraine and urged Russia to start a dialogue with the West.
Thousands of Russians lined up across the country last month to sign papers in support of his candidacy, an unusual show of opposition sympathies in the country’s rigidly controlled political landscape.
The politician said he asked the election authorities to postpone the decision and to give him more time to rebut their arguments, but they declined.
He said he would now challenge the disqualification in court.
Nadezhdin’s barring is no surprise
The barring of an anti-war candidate from running in Russia’s presidential election next month was no surprise in a contest that appears destined to produce one winner: Vladimir Putin.
Boris Nadezhdin, the only person who is even still able to attempt to get his name on the ballot, has vowed to appeal the election commission’s decision at the Supreme Court.
But this will probably fail too, leaving the field void of any runners or riders other than the incumbent as the Russian public prepares to go to the polls on 17 March.
Even if Mr Nadezhdin, 60, defied the odds and managed to run, there is no chance he would defeat Mr Putin, 71, who still commands high approval ratings despite being in power in one form or another since 1999.
The president does have a much more credible challenger in the form of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
But he has no chance of running for president for now as he is locked up in an Arctic penal colony, serving a 19-year prison sentence.
“It’s not me standing here,” Mr Nadezhdin said.
“Hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens who put their signatures down for me are behind me.”
The presidential election is scheduled for 15 to 17 March, with President Vladimir Putin almost certain to be re-elected given his tight control of Russia’s political system.
Most of the opposition figures who might have challenged him have been imprisoned or exiled abroad, while the majority of independent Russian media outlets have been banned.
Exiled opposition activists threw their support behind Mr Nadezhdin, urging their supporters to sign his nomination petitions.
But President Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin doesn’t view Mr Nadezhdin as “a rival” for the incumbent president.