Russia’s opposition mark Vladimir Putin’s birthday with protests

Russia’s opposition mark Vladimir Putin’s birthday with protests

Protesters across Russia will gather today for demonstrations, the occurrence of which will serve as an unpleasant birthday gift for President Vladimir Putin. The demonstrators want their leader, Alexei Navalny, on the March 2018 presidential election ballot. Due to an embezzlement conviction, which he claims is fabricated, Mr Navalny is barred from competing. He cannot attend today’s protests,

Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny arrested

Photo: AFP

Protesters across Russia will gather today for demonstrations, the occurrence of which will serve as an unpleasant birthday gift for President Vladimir Putin. The demonstrators want their leader, Alexei Navalny, on the March 2018 presidential election ballot.

Due to an embezzlement conviction, which he claims is fabricated, Mr Navalny is barred from competing. He cannot attend today’s protests, as he is serving a separate sentence —20 days in prison for holding an unauthorised demonstration. Navalny’s supporters argue these efforts mark government attempts to silence opposition to Putin.

The Kremlin may be concerned that, if on the ballot, Navalny could gain traction; he won 27% of the vote in Moscow’s 2013 mayoral elections. On the other hand, a decisively poor performance from the opposition would lend an image of added legitimacy to Putin’s near-certain re-election.

If Navalny’s absence and the official prohibition of demonstrations depress voter turnout, the influence of today’s rallies will be diminished. Even if the demonstrators succeed in getting the opposition leader on the ballot, it may be more a sign that Putin wishes to boost the appearance of electoral credibility, not that he is bowing to public pressure.

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