Russia’s main election authority has banned an anti-war candidate from standing in the country’s upcoming presidential election.
Boris Nadezhdin, a local legislator in a town near Moscow, was required by law to gather at least 100,000 signatures in support of his candidacy.
But the Central Election Commission said more than 9,000 signatures submitted by Mr Nadezhdin’s campaign were invalid, which was enough to disqualify him.
Russia‘s election rules state that potential candidates can have no more than 5% of their signatures thrown out.
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Mr Nadezhdin, 60, has called for a halt to the war in Ukraine and urged Russia to start a dialogue with the West.
Thousands of Russians lined up across the country last month to sign papers in support of his candidacy, an unusual show of opposition sympathies in the country’s rigidly controlled political landscape.
The politician said he asked the election authorities to postpone the decision and to give him more time to rebut their arguments, but they declined.
He said he would now challenge the disqualification in court.
“It’s not me standing here,” Mr Nadezhdin said.
“Hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens who put their signatures down for me are behind me.”
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The presidential election is scheduled for 15 to 17 March, with President Vladimir Putin almost certain to be re-elected given his tight control of Russia’s political system.
Most of the opposition figures who might have challenged him have been imprisoned or exiled abroad, while the majority of independent Russian media outlets have been banned.
Exiled opposition activists threw their support behind Mr Nadezhdin, urging their supporters to sign his nomination petitions.
But President Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin doesn’t view Mr Nadezhdin as “a rival” for the incumbent president.