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Navalny ‘ineligible to stand’ in next year’s Russian Presidential election

Chairman of Russian Central Electoral Commission says criminal record makes Navalny ineligible

Head of Russia's Central Election Commission Ella Pamfilova speaks during a meeting with the commission's officials in Moscow on September 7, 2016, ahead of parliamentary elections to be held on September 18. / AFP / YURI KADOBNOV (Photo credit should read YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Ella Pamfilova, the Chairman of Russia’s Central Electoral Commission, has told Russia’s pro-liberal Dozhd TV that Navalny is ineligible to stand in next year’s Russian Presidential election, though she did leave open the possibility of some mechanism being created to enable him to stand.

I realize this and he realizes, too, that he doesn’t have a chance to get registered for the election because of his record of conviction.  This strictly conforms to Russian legislation.  In this case, I’m only an official and I stand at head of an agency that will have a duty to register the candidates and I don’t have the right to voice my position on any of the potential candidates.  But still he has practically no chances for registration and the election race hasn’t begun yet and there are no candidates

Pamfilova is not an obvious critic or opponent of Navalny’s.  Politically speaking she is a liberal, having been Minister for Social Care between 1991 and 1994 when Boris Yeltsin was President.  In the Presidential election of 2000 she stood as a liberal candidate, though support for her was derisory, with Yabloko’s Grigory Yavlinsky capturing most of the liberal vote.

From 2004 to 2010 Pamfilova chaired President Putin’s Human Rights Commission, a notoriously liberal dominated institution within the Russian political system, which openly campaigned for the release of the jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and which published a one-sided and flawed report about the causes of Sergey Magnitsky’s death, which was seized on by the US Senate to justify its passing of the so-called Magnitsky Act. 

It is fair to say that the more extreme pro-liberal positions taken by the Human Rights Commission – including those concerning Khodorkovsky and Magnitsky – happened after Pamfilova ceased to be its chairman.  Having said this, there is no doubt that Pamfilova belongs to the furthest liberal part of the Russian political establishment, and President Putin’s decision in 2014 to appoint her Chairman of the Central Electoral Commission therefore came as a surprise.

Pamfilova is nonetheless generally acknowledged to have done her work as Chairman of the Central Electoral Commission well, with the result that the parliamentary elections held in Russia last autumn were not marred with the allegations of corruption and vote-rigging which were rife at the time of the previous parliamentary elections in 2011.

There is actually some doubt about whether Navalny’s record of convictions does render him ineligible to stand in the election.  He has argued that since he has not actually been sent to prison (all the sentences he has received have either been very short or have been suspended) he remains eligible to stand for the election.

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The fact that Pamfilova is saying that he is not eligible to stand despite these doubts suggests that after Navalny’s latest antics on Russia Day even the most liberal elements of the Russian establishment have finally lost patience with him.

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