Moscow: Russian anti-war presidential candidate Boris Nadezhdin on Wednesday delivered over one lakh signatures in his support to the Central Election Commission (CEC), technically enough to challenge incumbent Vladimir Putin in a March election. However, nobody expects Nadezhdin, 60, to win. The victory of 71-year-old Putin, who has been in power as either president or prime minister since the end of 1999 and controls all the state’s levers, is widely seen as a foregone conclusion.
But Nadezhdin has surprised some analysts with his trenchant criticism of what the Kremlin calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, something he calls “a fatal mistake” and says he would try to end through negotiations.
Russian election commission likely to reject Nadezhdin’s candidacy
Kremlin critics say Nadezhdin, who has been a regular guest on state TV programmes discussing the war, would not have been allowed to get this far in such a tightly controlled political system without the authorities’ blessing, something he denies. Still, his outspoken statements about Russia’s war have stoked speculation that he may have crossed an unspoken red line and will be barred from running on a technicality or forced to drop out.
Speaking on Wednesday, Nadezhdin signalled he was determined to run. “It will be very difficult for the CEC and the authorities to say: ‘I didn’t notice the elephant in the room!'”, he said, referring to his success in gathering the necessary signatures which he delivered to the CEC’s Moscow headquarters in cardboard boxes.
Election officials will check the authenticity of the signatures submitted by Nadezhdin and other would-be candidates, several of whom have withdrawn from the race in recent days. The CEC, which has in the past uncovered what it has said are irregularities in signatures collected by some candidates and disqualified them as a result, has 10 days to decide whether to register Nadezhdin or not.
Role of signatures in Russian Presidential elections
In a speech at the CEC, Nadezhdin stressed that the signatures had all been collected inside Russia – in line with the rules – and did not include those gathered abroad. He also said that his campaign was entirely funded by what he said were tens of thousands of donations from “ordinary people”.
“Putin committed a fatal error by starting the special military operation (in Ukraine),” Nadezhdin said. As a candidate nominated by a political party, Nadezhdin needed to gather 1,00,000 signatures across at least 40 regions in order to stand in the March 15-17 election. Putin, who has chosen to run as an independent rather than as the candidate of the ruling United Russia party, needs 3,00,000 signatures. He has already collected over 3.5 million, according to his supporters.
(With inputs from Reuters)