Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Keeping rivals off the ballot

Here's an example of how to run a procedural democracy.

Aleksei Navalny, Viable Putin Rival, Is Barred From a Presidential Run
A Russian court on Wednesday effectively derailed a presidential run by Aleksei A. Navalny — the only opposition candidate with a broad, enthusiastic popular following — by reviving a four-year-old criminal conviction…

The best chance for a competitive race came to a screeching halt on Wednesday, however, when a district court in the small city of Kirov, nearly 500 miles northeast of Moscow, pronounced Mr. Navalny guilty of defrauding a state company. Russian law bars anyone with a criminal conviction from seeking elected office…

Since he first came to power in January 2000, Mr. Putin and his allies have gone to great lengths to silence or undermine all critical voices in Russia. It has been almost two years since the still-mysterious assassination of Boris Nemtsov, another charismatic opposition figure…

Russian television is largely back under government control, as it was during Soviet times, along with most formerly independent news agencies. More than 100 nongovernmental organizations working on issues including the environment, civic education and fighting the spread of AIDS have been declared “foreign agents,” forcing many to close.

Mr. Navalny was the driving force behind large street protests in 2011, 2012 and 2013 that unnerved Mr. Putin. He has also repeatedly embarrassed senior officials by accusing them of corruption, exposing their lavish mansions and other perquisites that seem beyond the reach of a public servant earning a modest government salary.

In recent years, Mr. Navalny became the prime example of how the government would use the courts to entangle critics. In addition to the conviction revived on Wednesday, he has been accused of defrauding a French perfume company…

Mr. Navalny, who called the Kirov fraud charges baseless and politically motivated, responded to the latest judgment against him with defiance. “Putin and his gang of thieves are afraid to face us in elections,” he wrote on Twitter. “Rightly so: We will win.”

Russian political analysts suggested that the prospect of Mr. Navalny’s gaining a national platform to further criticize Mr. Putin had proved too much for the Kremlin hierarchy to tolerate.

“The danger associated with Mr. Navalny is easy to explain,” Vladislav L. Inozemtsev, director of the Center for Postindustrial Studies in Moscow, wrote in an email. “If allowed to run, he will disseminate his corruption findings more widely than ever — and this disturbs very much Mr. Putin and his gang.”…

Even before the verdict was announced, the government moved to shut down the logistics for his presidential run. On Tuesday, Russia’s leading information technology company, Yandex, unplugged the online account that Mr. Navalny had used to collect money from supporters.

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