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Russian President Vladimir Putin will win the 2018 presidential election, but he will have a familiar name on the ballot running against him. Opposition activist Aleksei Navalny has more than the required 500 signatures required to get on the presidential ballot.
There will be a legal snag for Navalny. Russian law requires a 10-year gap between the completion of a criminal sentence and a presidential run. Navalny was sentenced to a 5-year probation for embezzling $500,000 through cosmetic company Yves Rocher. Navalny has asked his supporters to boycott the election if he’s not allowed on the ballot. His claim is that suspended sentences such as probation are not included in the law.
The opposition activist won the initial support of 742 people at a gathering in Moscow, above the minimum 500 required to launch a presidential bid. At least 20 cities across the country hosted rallies in his support.
Navalny wrote on his website that he was proud to have become the candidate “from the whole of the country.” He tweeted that he and his supporters are currently taking the signatures to the Russian Central Election Commission.
Mr Navalny spoke at the Moscow gathering, branding Mr Putin a “bad president”.
He told his supporters in a marquee on a snowy riverbank that he would call a boycott of the election if he were not allowed to stand.
Mr Navalny is widely regarded as the only candidate with a chance of challenging the president, who is seeking a fourth term that would see him become the longest-serving Russian leader since Joseph Stalin.
The endorsement was observed by election authorities. Mr Navalny’s representative is to file the papers with the Election Commission later on Sunday in the same procedure that Mr Putin, who is also running as an independent, should follow.
Even though Russian law requires a candidate to submit an endorsement from just 500 people before he or she is allowed to collect the 1 million signatures required to get a place on the ballot paper, Mr Navalny’s supporters put a show of strength on Sunday.
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