Putin critic runs in Moscow mayor vote

Alexei Navalny, who led rallies against Russian president, takes on Kremlin ally in first vote of its kind in a decade.

    Russia’s convicted opposition leader Alexei Navalny is challenging a member of President Vladimir Putin's ruling party in Moscow’s mayoral election, in a vote seen as a test for the protest movement.

    In the capital's first mayoral poll in a decade, Muscovites had six candidates to choose from on Sunday, including the current mayor Sergei Sobyanin.

    Putin, who made no secret of his support for his former Kremlin chief of staff Sobyanin, said Moscow did not need a politician for a mayor.

    "Such big cities do not so much need to be run by politicians," he said after casting his vote in Moscow, adding such a city should be managed by "depoliticised people, technocrats".

    For underdog Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner who emerged from a wave of street protests as the driving force of opposition to Putin's 13-year rule, the vote is a chance to show that many Russians want change.

    Protest vote

    Irina, a Muscovite in her 40s who works in manufacturing, and her father cast their ballots for Navalny in a sign of protest against the Kremlin.

    "We've both voted for Navalny, we like some things about him but first and foremost we really don't like the authorities," she told the Reuters news agency.

    Al Jazeera’s Peter Sharp, reporting from Moscow, said Navalny was carrying out the “first-ever Western-style political campaign, using social media and political slogans such as 'change Russia, start with Moscow'".

    Sobyanin, appointed to a five-year term by the Kremlin in 2010, had called an early election to bolster legitimacy and strengthen his position.

    He was expected to garner 60 percent of Sunday's vote.

    Our correspondent added: "If Navalny manages to pull up about 20 percent of the votes, it will still mark a shift and send a message to the Kremlin that they can’t just sweep aside the opposition”.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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