The Central Election Commission (CEC) has confirmed liberal Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky and independent candidate Dmitry Mezentsev will not be allowed to enter the 2012 Russian Presidential Election.
Although both candidates claimed that they had obtained the 2 million signatures needed for a candidate from a party not represented in the Duma to secure a place on the ballot, the CEC said that more than 5% of each candidate’s signatures (the maximum allowed) were invalid. In Yavlinsky’s case, the CEC reported that almost a quarter of his signatures were invalid – mostly because they were on photocopied sheets.
The CEC confirmed that oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov – the third ‘independent’ candidate – did collect enough legitimate signatures and he will be entered onto the ballot.
Early ReactionYavlinsky slammed the decision and, predictably, blamed it on Putin. “This is a totally political decision,” he told reporters. “All the signatures are authentic. They are the real signatures given by real people. What is the point of collecting the signatures?”
As far as I can see, Mezentsev hasn’t made any public comment on the decision. Widely regarded as a technical candidate, there only to ensure that the election could go ahead if every other candidate withdrew, his exclusion is odd in some respects as it does mean that the election could technically not happen in the unlikely event that the other candidates agreed to pull out. On the other hand no-one is quite sure how a candidate such as Mezentsev, who had never been involved in national politics before, could have legitimately collected 2 million signatures in such a short period of time.
Although Mikhail Prokhorov will no doubt be pleased that he is now on the ballot, he also criticised the CEC’s decision, calling it “a blow to the legitimacy” of the election. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov has also criticised the decision, calling it “illegal”.
As expected, Vladimir Putin hasn’t commented directly on the issue, but a Presidential spokesman told reporters that the exclusion shouldn’t affect the legitimacy, or the perceived legitimacy, of the election. “If one of the candidates failed to score the required number of votes, it shouldn’t give rise to claims about the illegitimacy of the election, even before the elections even took place.”
Beleagured CEC Chairman Nikolai Konkin has also defended the decision to exclude Yavlinsky and Mezentsev, resignedly telling reporters: “No politics here, just pure arithmetic.”
Who is left standing?
This week’s shakeup leaves just five candidates in the race to become Russia’s next President – Vladimir Putin (United Russia), Gennady Zyuganov (Communist), Sergei Mironov (A Just Russia), Vladimir Zhirinovsky (Liberal Democracts) and Mikhail Prokhorov (Independent).
The latest reported polling, from FOM shows that Putin remains the overwhelming favourite, with 45% support. Of the others, Zyuganov (11%) and Zhirinovsky (10%) look to be in a battle for the runner up spot and a possible second round runoff against Putin. Mironov and Prokhorov are both polling a disappointing 3%, leaving them battling for the wooden spoon.