Aleksei Navalny, a famous Russian Opposition leader, announces today that he will run for President in 2018
Aleksei Navalny, Putin Critic, Says He’ll Run for President of RussiaMOSCOW — Aleksei A. Navalny, the most vocal critic of the Kremlin, announced on Tuesday his intention to run for president of Russia, though he is facing a court trial that could make him ineligible to participate in the campaign.
“There have been no true elections in Russia since 1996, and this is one of the reasons of our plight,” Mr. Navalny said in a video statement, posted on his new campaign website. “I will participate in the election, and I will fight for victory.”
Apart from Mr. Navalny, only Grigory A. Yavlinsky, the leader of the liberal party Yabloko, has declared his intention to run for the post. President Vladimir V. Putin has deflected questions about his own candidacy, saying it is too early to talk about it. But he is widely expected to run and, in light of his soaring approval ratings and control over the news media, is expected to win.
The vote is scheduled to take place in March 2018.
A lawyer by training, Mr. Navalny, 40, emerged as Russia’s most prominent opposition politician on the wave of public protests that followed parliamentary elections in 2011, seen by many as flawed.
But as Mr. Navalny’s popularity was surging, Russian investigators got busy, filing a number of criminal cases that rights advocates have dismissed as politically motivated. In 2013, a court in the provincial Russian town of Kirov convicted Mr. Navalny on charges of embezzling timber worth $500,000 from a state-owned company and sentenced him to five years in prison.
A few months later, the sentence was suspended but the criminal conviction barred Mr. Navalny from running for office — the outcome that Mr. Navalny and others say was the government’s goal from the beginning.
In the meantime, Mr. Navalny garnered more than 27 percent of the vote in a race for mayor of Moscow, a better result than any other open critic of the Kremlin in a major election since Mr. Putin assumed office in 1999. That Mr. Navalny was even allowed to run was seen as an attempt by the Kremlin to make the election look more legitimate.
In November, Russia’s Supreme Court overturned Mr. Navalny’s criminal conviction after the European Court of Human Rights ruled in February that Russian courts had violated his right to a fair trial. While Mr. Navalny is free for the moment to campaign, the criminal case will be retried by a court in Kirov, which could reinstate the conviction and again bar him from office.
Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, told RBC, a Russian news website, that the Kremlin had no comment on Mr. Navalny’s announcement.
Over the years, Mr. Navalny has repeatedly accused Mr. Putin and members of his inner circle of rampant corruption, and has been tolerated as long as he does not seem to pose a serious threat.
In his statement, Mr. Navalny promised to raise the issue of official corruption during the campaign.
“The Kremlin and the government are only worried about solving their own financial issues,” Mr. Navalny said in the video. “I will discuss what everybody is silent about, but what has to be said for a long time.”
The article above has the same video, but with English subtitles.
Navalny is an interesting guy. "Liberal", sure, "pro-Western", sure, in his way, but he understands the limits and drawbacks of that position, within Russian society, and knows exactly how far he can or cannot go on vital issues.
For example, he has ruled out, back in October 2014, returning Crimea to Ukraine, ever:
Navalny’s Comments on Crimea Ignite Russian TwittersphereIn a rare interview with the Russian news media this week, the anticorruption blogger Aleksei A. Navalny antagonized some of his fellow liberals by appearing to rule out the return of the Crimean peninsula to Ukraine.
Asked by the editor of the Ekho Moskvy radio station, Aleksei Venediktov, if he agreed with the popular nationalist slogan, “Crimea Is Ours!” Mr. Navalny hedged. “Crimea belongs to the people who live in Crimea,” he said, according to a translation from The Interpreter, a website financed by the Russian dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s foundation.
“I think that despite the fact that the Crimea was seized with outrageous violations of all international norms, nevertheless, the realities are such that Crimea is now part of the Russian Federation,” Mr. Navalny added. “So let’s not kid ourselves. And I advise the Ukrainians not to kid themselves, either. It will remain part of Russia and will never become part of Ukraine in the foreseeable future.”
Pressed on whether he would try to return Crimea to Ukraine in the event he became Russia’s president, Mr. Navalny, who finished a strong second in the race for Moscow’s mayor last year, asked rhetorically, “What, is the Crimea a ham sandwich or something that you can take and give it back?”
He answered: “No, I don’t believe so.”
But, yeah, he has challenged Putin and his government on many occasions, over corruption, rigged elections, all that kind of nasty stuff.
Been detained and arrested at many illegal demonstrations
And been attacked by pro-Putin thugs, including men who threw a cake in his face in Moscow: Opposition Leader Navalny Targeted In Cake Attack
And angry Cossacks who beat him and his supporters after pelting them with milk bags, in Krasnodar, in the South: Russia's Cossacks assault Putin critic Alexei Navalny - AJE News
He was also close to the late Boris Nemtsov...
Navalny has plenty of support, at least in the capital itself.
In 2013, he scored a whopping 27% of the vote in the Moscow Mayor Election, even in spite of the obvious rigging in favor of Putin's man, Sergey Sobyanin: Alexei Navalny Scores High Result in Moscow Mayor Elections - SPIEGEL ONLINE
I have heard it said that if that election was NOT rigged, Navalny would be Mayor of Moscow today...
And this was after, that same year, as the article says, the court in Kirov sentenced him to 5 years on the likely trumped-up embezzlement charges
The sentence was, later, withdrawn, after mass protests in Moscow by Navalny supporters, which led to scuffles with security forces and numerous arrests
Arrests As Navalny Conviction Ignites Russian Protests
Most recently, Navalny has targeted the newly appointed Central Election Commission chief, Ella Pamfilova, over alleged falsifications in the nationwide Duma (parliament) elections in September: Navalny Calls On Russian Elections Chief To Quit Over 'Falsifications'
But he is always dragging out the dirty laundry of Russia's rich and powerful elites.
For example, he has published evidence, on his blog, of Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov spending 40,000,000 rubles ($650,000) a year to fly his DOGS around on a private jet
Keep in mind the average Russian school teacher, for example, earns 40,000 rubles a month (70,000 in Moscow)...
Basically, he is a constant pain in Putin's butt lol Too popular to jail him. Or, frankly, even to kill him, like Nemtsov... If Navalny were to get shot, I dare it just may ignite a Russian Maidan. Which, frankly, is why he is still alive, in my opinion. Putin has managed to discredit him out in the provinces, most there swallow the TV propaganda that he is a traitor and Western stooge (and so are ALL liberals); but in Moscow itself, the educated people, the intelligentsia, the students in universities, they all support Navalny, or most do, at least.
Which, however, will not help him win a Presidential election (assuming Putin does not, still, somehow prevent him from running, which I am NOT ruling out). He will need to find a way to appeal to the provincials and working class folks too...
He does have one thing going for him, in that regard: family values.
At least, he actually HAS a normal, Russian family
unlike Putin, who is always seemingly alone, divorced from wife, running around with some secret mistresses, nobody knows where all his kids are...
Aleksei and his wife are said to be Orthodox Christian believers too
Visiting the ancient wooden church at Kizhi: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kizhi_Pogost
This could play in his favor with the rural and provincial base.
In any case, he'd be a dangerous opponent for Putin. I have no doubt the Kremlin would try to, somehow, keep him out of the race. We shall see what happens. Very, very interesting.