[An interview with opposition leader Alexei Navalny, on his plans to run for the Mayor of Moscow and the obstacles he expects to encounter—Ed.]
Are you going to run for mayor?
Yes, I am.
There are two options: nomination by yourself or by a party. The first requires collecting signatures – more than 70,000, but that’s not the main problem – you can gather them. The problem is that the Moscow Electoral Commission has always removed all candidates from the opposition who were nominated through signatures. Since the Popular Alliance party is not registered, there is another possible option – to be nominated by the Republican Party of Russia-Party of Popular Liberty (RPR-PARNAS).
What are the chances you can get through the municipal filter?
This is the story: you have to gather the signatures of 110 deputies; furthermore, these deputies have to be from 110 municipal districts. This is an extremely difficult task, especially if you consider the fact that, in the last municipal elections about 400 independent candidates were simply not allowed to participate in the elections. Either members of United Russia predominate in the municipalities, or people like school principals or chief physicians, who in one way or another are subordinate to the heads of the administration. Moreover, as I’ve already been informed, and then as was confirmed, a special group has been created inside the mayor’s office in the campaign headquarters which calls up the undecided or the unreliable and explains to them that they should not give their signature to Navalny for any reason, because otherwise they will face problems. The situation becomes even more complex when a number of the candidates begin to buy up votes.
For how much?
For 100,000 to 300,000 rubles per vote ($1,000-3,000). Finally, there may simply not be enough independent municipal deputies for those who are running from outside the government. The problem is that each deputy only has one signature. Obviously, members of United Russia, and also those whose salaries are paid by the state budget, are going to give their votes to Sobyanin. That leaves about 200 deputies whose signatures could be claimed by Sergei Mitrokhin (Yabloko) – he is definitely running for the election; then a candidate from Just Russia like Galina Khovanskaya, and a candidate from the Communists – either Klychkov or Melnikov, and finally Prokhorov or his sister. Each one of them needs 110 votes. Furthermore, each signature has to be notarized – each deputy must be brought to a notary public and in his presence, the signature must be verified. Even so, I am doing everything in order to overcome this filter.
There won’t be a united candidate from the opposition?
Well, it depends on who you are referring to in terms of the opposition. For Sobyanin and the mayor’s office, the ideal elections look like this: there is Sobyanin, there is a Communist, Klychkov, most likely he is more suitable for them than the rest, there is [environmental official Oleg] Mitvol. In that case, Sobyanin is guaranteed to win the first round, particularly because such a slate of candidates makes the elections of little interest, and the low turnout – 35-40% — gives a definite advantage to Sobyanin. Mitrokhin theoretically fits into this ideal scheme for them as well. But I don’t fit into their scheme for sure, nor does Prokhorov. Prokhorov is their main enemy, he has not hid the fact that he is preparing for the mayoral elections, but it is just that he thought the elections would be a year or two later – he has to sell all his assets, and that is impossible to do in a month.
The fact that you are on trial now, does that limit your right to be nominated as a candidate?
From the formal perspective of the law, it does not prevent me at all. But from the perspective of running an election campaign, naturally it interferes, because you need to be in Moscow for the whole electoral campaign, meet with deputies, meet with people, and take part in debates. I don’t doubt that on the same date of major events, for example, the debates, trial sessions will be scheduled in Kirov.
And if Judge Blinov delivers a guilty sentence – God forbid, of course?
Then my registration will be removed, even if I get a suspended sentence.
Are you prepared to speak about your campaign program?
Naturally, I will announce my program, but I don’t want to go into details. One thing I can say: of course this will be a program of development. But the problem is that there is no time for a substantive agenda in these elections.
Who do you see as your main rival?
Sobyanin, of course. I am going to run in these elections to fight against Sobyanin, to fight against United Russia and with that paradigm of development of the city. I would not run in these elections if I did not believe that I can convince a majority of Muscovites to vote for me.
A discussion is under way in social networks— some say that any elections are better than the absence of them. Others say that it is not worth taking part in elections since the result is a given in advance.
But you have to take part in them anyway. It’s another matter that the elections are a process – a date, preparation, a campaign. And when the date is determined somewhere at a dacha out there on Rublyovka [Rublyovskoye Avenue, site of government mansions], and then some kind of incomprehensible public has nominated someone – obviously this is a violation of procedure. Early elections were announced precisely in order to remove Prokhorov and Navalny from these elections.
But your opponents say that the opposite must be prepared for elections at any moment.
It is ready. I don’t want to look like a defender of Prokhorov, but a fact is a fact: he has put all his time into preparing for the Moscow elections. The government saw that he was preparing for them, and therefore did everything so that he could not take part in them. And I have been preparing for them, but the fact that they will be announced now was a major surprise for everyone, and was all done in order to make taking part in them difficult. Once again: the government has thought up a mechanism to purge the elections of Navalny and Prokhorov. But I intend to fight.