09/10/2013, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Navalny loses the election for mayor of Moscow, but cries victory

by Nina Achmatova
The anti-Putin blogger draws thousands of people to the streets after a vote he deems rigged. He gets more votes than expected, upsetting the Kremlin. "We now know how to overturn the system of power."

Moscow (AsiaNews ) - "A major opposition party has been born in Russia. A real political movement has been born": these the words of the anti-Putin blogger , Alexey Navalny , following the elections for mayor of Moscow, in which he challenged the Kremlin candidate, Sergei Sobyanin.  The election which took place on 8 September saw Navalny formally defeated ( 27.2 % versus 51.3% ), but he also did far better than expected and now, with his movement of young volunteers and the support of the middle class in Moscow which longs for a change , he is ready to take to the field of real politics . Even at a national level.

The anti-corruption activist (who has now become a political personality and parliamentary leader of the opposition) claims to have collected at least 35 % of the vote, which was dominated by a strong turnout (around 32 % ) . His staff and observers denounced fraud and irregularities in favor of the incumbent mayor , who had to pull out all the stops to avoid a humiliating runoff . Navalny asked for a recount , but it is unlikely that the result will be overturned .

In the aftermath of the vote, however , his supporters took to the streets in Moscow to make their voices heard, to prove that they will not give up and that beyond the war of figures, the elections were a "victory" . Navalny said as much from the stage , under which at least 10 thousand people gathered in Balotnaya Square, which last year was the focal point of the most massive anti-government protests in the last decade. "In Russia a major opposition , a real political movement has been born",  he declared as the crowd screamed " second round " " Putin thief." He then spoke of aiming to form a grand coalition of several parties that " will bring United Russia down" , the Putin formation which has monopolized power for years. " I only ask you to believe me , I know how to overturn the system," he assured them, explaining that the plan now is to bring the model of ' team Navalny ' to other regions and cities of the country: volunteers , online fundraising , door to door campaigning and interactive projects to awaken the civic consciousness of the Russians. This with one eye on the upcoming elections to the Duma next year, as well as the presidential election of 2018.

Experts , however , point out that Navalny's success in taking on politics will depend on what is decided in court. A five year sentence for theft of timber from a public company hangs over his head. The ruling could be enforceable after the appeal process, the date of which has yet to be announced. Navalny is convinced that the verdict will be confirmed and in that case he will be precluded from participating in any electoral competition . But this does not discourage him at present. He knows that now a process of change has started and there is no going back. And there are those, such as the political scientist Stanislav Belkovsky , who say that a valid replacement is ready to take over the leadership of the movement from the blogger if necessary: his young and beautiful wife , Yulia .

 

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