Navalny vows to challenge Putin in parliamentary polls
Russia's opposition led by the charismatic activist Alexei Navalny vowed Wednesday to contest next year's parliamentary elections as liberals firm up plans to close ranks amid an intensifying Kremlin crackdown.
Last week Navalny and his Party of Progress joined ranks with the political party of slain Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov in a bid to form a democratic alliance and overcome years of bickering.
“We are going to contest the polls,” Navalny, a 38-year-old lawyer who shot to prominence during mass protests against Vladimir Putin in 2011-2012, announced on Wednesday.
He said it was of paramount importance for “millions” of liberal Russians to win political representation.
“Unfortunately these people are not represented anywhere at the moment,” said Navalny, sporting a blue shirt and suit.
Russian liberal parties failed to get into the Russian parliament in 2003 and have been marginalised ever since.
Navalny, who has been fighting a series of criminal probes, cannot himself run for a parliamentary seat.
He said that ahead of the legislative polls the opposition would this year seek to contest local elections in three Russian regions and will conduct “primaries.”
“The best people will be included in the party lists,” he said.
The newly-established opposition alliance has been formed around the PPR-Parnas party of Nemtsov who was gunned down near the Kremlin in March in the most shocking assassination of Putin’s 15-year rule.
Critics accuse the Russian strongman of spearheading the steady suppression of independent media and opposition parties since coming to power in 2000.
Incensed by what they saw as mass violations during the last parliamentary polls, tens of thousands of liberal-minded Russians took to the streets in 2011-2012.
The rallies have since died down, with authorities jailing some opposition activists and forcing many others to flee.
Some liberal-leaning MPs were forced out of the parliament’s lower house, the State Duma, while one dissenting lawmaker, Ilya Ponomaryov, has been forced to remain in the United States over fears for his freedom.