Will the anti-war politician Boris Nadezhdin be allowed to run against Vladimir Putin for the Russian presidency? That’s the question Russians are wondering this week after the independent candidate submitted the signatures he needed to get onto the ballot for March’s election.
Nadezhdin claimed to have collected 105,000 signatures from across Russia – the maximum a non-party affiliated candidate can submit to be considered for the presidency. But just days after he submitted them last Wednesday, Russia’s central electoral commission declared that the paperwork was littered with ‘surprising errors’ – including, allegedly, the signatures of ‘dozens of people no longer of this world’.
Early yesterday morning, Nadezhdin’s team confirmed that so far the electoral commission had thrown out 15 per cent of the signatures he’d collected on the grounds they were invalid. According to Russian electoral law, a candidate can only have their application to run registered if no more than 5 per cent of their collected signatures are invalid. With the electoral commission due to make a final decision on whether to let him run on Wednesday, Nadezhdin is facing a nail-biting 48 hours to see if the Kremlin will let him onto the ballot paper alongside Putin.
It was not surprising that the electoral commission would find ‘problems’ with Nadezhdin’s application – in fact, many had expected it to. The commission has used a similar excuse to block another anti-war hopeful, the former broadcast journalist Ekaterina Duntsova, at the end of last year. Casting aspersions on the ethical standards of Nadezhdin’s campaign by suggesting his team have forged the signatures of deceased voters seems like a stretch, but it is not beyond the dirty tricks the Kremlin is capable of playing to keep control of who makes it onto the ballot.