Navalny demands recount in Moscow mayoral race


MOSCOW — Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny demanded a recount today in Moscow’s mayoral election after official results showed that the Kremlin-backed incumbent barely escaped facing a runoff with him.

The Moscow Election Commission said today that former Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Sobyanin got just over 51 percent of the vote while Navalny garnered 27 percent in second place, a strong result for a Russian opposition leader.

“We do not recognize these elections,” Navalny told reporters. “Sobyanin can’t consider himself the mayor of all Muscovites, he can’t consider himself a lawfully elected mayor unless he agrees to our demands and allows a recount of the vote.”

Leonid Volkov, chief of Navalny’s election campaign, said the key violation they are contesting is the voting from home totals, where the vote count showed what he called an abnormally high number of votes for Sobyanin.

If Sobyanin, 55, had won less than 50 percent, he would have faced a runoff with the charismatic 37-year-old Navalny, who has risen to wide prominence in the past few years with his anti-corruption campaign.

The election was closely watched around the world amid concerns over the democratic process in Russia and following Navalny’s recent conviction for embezzlement, a charge he says was politically motivated.

Sobyanin, who was appointed Moscow’s mayor in 2010, said in comments carried by Russia news agencies that Moscow had “passed the test for free and fair elections.”

While his frustrated supporters were gearing up for a protest rally later today, Navalny said he was not seeking to bring unrest to Moscow. Still, he pledged to “participate in acts of civil disobedience” if Sobyanin turned down his offer for talks and a recount.

“Our demands are lawful, we don’t plan to kick up a fuss for the sake of it,” Navalny said.

Golos, Russia’s leading independent election monitor, said the voting Sunday appeared to have gone smoothly. It will present its assessment later today. However, aggregated data collected by election observers throughout Moscow and published on Golos’ website showed Sobyanin winning only 49.5 percent of the vote.

Sunday’s mayoral election was the first since 2003 and included six candidates. Last year, the Kremlin reversed Putin’s 2004 decree abolishing direct elections for the Moscow mayor and other regional leaders.