Election authorities in Omsk, Siberia’s second-biggest city, banned on Saturday the prime opposition candidate and affiliate of tycoon Mikhail Prokorov from the mayoral race on a technicality.
Running as an independent, Vladislav Inozemtsev had to collect signatures in support of his bid, but more than 20 percent of the 9,500 signatures he filed with the authorities were found to be invalid, the city’s election commission said, Bk55.ru local news website reported.
Inozemtsev, a Moscow-based economist who was an aide to Prokhorov during the tycoon’s presidential campaign, pledged to appeal the decision in court next week, one of several leaders of his campaign staff, Sergei Kostaryov, told RIA Novosti.
“It’s a political decision if Inozemtsev is taken off the race. It means the other candidates, who can influence the elections commission, think him a serious competitor,” Kostaryov said. He named no names.
Two presidential candidates, including opposition heavyweight Grigory Yavlinsky, were taken off the Kremlin race in January over faulty signatures. Opposition activists accused the authorities at the time of using the technicality as a smokescreen for a political decision, though the Kremlin denied it.
Another opposition candidate, popular Moscow blogger Ilya Varlamov, quit the Omsk race earlier in May, saying it is impossible to collect the required 10,000 signatures in the short time designated for the procedure without resorting to fraud.
Omsk, Russia’s seventh-biggest city with a population of 1.1 million, is electing a mayor on June 17.
Ten candidates were registered for the race so far, including representatives of all three major opposition parties – the Communists, the Liberal Democrats and A Just Russia – as well as the alleged nominee of the ruling establishment, city legislature speaker Vyacheslav Dvorakovsky, endorsed by Omsk region’s governor Viktor Nazarov.
Regional elections are a focus of the opposition after the recent parliamentary and presidential elections, both of which were denounced by the government’s opponents as heavily rigged.
Since March, opposition candidates won mayoral elections in the big cities of Yaroslavl and Togliatti and waged a prolonged, but losing battle in Astrakhan. Activists traveled from Moscow to the regions to monitor the elections, ensuring no fraud took place.