Russia Prevents Antiwar Candidate from Contesting Putin in March Election

Russia bars antiwar candidate from challenging Putin in March election

On Thursday, Russian electoral authorities made a significant decision, barring Boris Nadezhdin, the sole remaining antiwar candidate, from contesting against President Vladimir Putin in the upcoming March election. This move hints at a level of apprehension concerning a potential antiwar protest vote amidst widespread war fatigue in the nation.

The electoral process in Russia has long been subject to manipulation, often termed a “managed democracy” by officials. The forthcoming election is widely perceived as a procedural formality orchestrated to ensure Putin’s sustained dominance in power.

The exclusion of Nadezhdin signifies a further departure from democratic norms toward what Russian analysts characterize as an authoritarian if not totalitarian, regime. Here, manipulated elections serve to offer a thin guise of legitimacy for the 71-year-old president without challenging his authority.

Russia Prevents Antiwar Candidate from Contesting Putin in March Election
Russia Prevents Antiwar Candidate from Contesting Putin in March Election (Credits: CBC)

Prior instances have seen Russian authorities disqualifying any candidate deemed as a genuine threat to Putin’s rule, such as the imprisoned opposition figure Alexei Navalny. Instead, a select group of candidates, known to cooperate with the regime, are permitted to participate, ensuring minimal challenge to Putin’s position.

While three other candidates remain in the race, their alignment with the president and history of collaboration with the Kremlin diminishes the likelihood of them posing a substantial challenge.

Nadezhdin, a 60-year-old physicist and opposition figure, has emerged as a surprising contender, drawing attention with his criticism of the war on state television. Despite lacking the prominence of figures like Navalny, Nadezhdin’s candidacy gained traction, evidenced by long queues forming outside his campaign offices nationwide, reflecting deep-seated discontent over the Ukrainian conflict and other grievances.

In response to his disqualification, Nadezhdin expressed his determination to contest the decision through legal channels, though the politicized nature of the judiciary makes reversal unlikely.

The disqualification was purportedly due to irregularities in Nadezhdin’s signature collection process, with the election commission invalidating a significant portion of submissions, citing the presence of deceased individuals among the signatories.

Nadezhdin and his team contested this, alleging errors in the commission’s software, which led to the erroneous disqualification of valid signatures. Despite their efforts, the decision stood, prompting Nadezhdin to decry the disenfranchisement of millions of potential supporters.

While Nadezhdin may lack the widespread support needed to challenge Putin, a significant protest vote in his favor could unsettle the Kremlin, particularly amid growing opposition to the protracted and costly war in Ukraine.

Public sentiment, as per independent polling, indicates a majority favoring peace talks over continued military action, reflecting increasing discontent with the ongoing conflict.

The Kremlin justified Nadezhdin’s exclusion by citing procedural errors in signature collection, maintaining adherence to electoral regulations. However, critics highlight systemic flaws in the electoral process, including the potential for fraud and constraints on opposition activity.

With the election scheduled over three days and electronic voting introduced opaquely for the first time, concerns regarding transparency and fairness persist. Additionally, the Kremlin’s tight grip on media and suppression of dissent further underscores the challenges to democratic norms in Russia.

I'm Richard Rosales, I cover political news and ongoing US elections.