Recount demanded in Moscow mayoral vote

Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, 9:48 p.m.

MOSCOW — The Moscow City Election Commission will review a demand by opposition leader Alexei Navalny for a recount of Sunday's mayoral vote, Chairman Valentin Gorbunov told Interfax on Monday.

The official vote count gave acting Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, a Kremlin loyalist, 51.37 percent, just enough to avoid a runoff in two weeks with the second-highest vote-getter.

Navalny, a leading critic of President Vladimir Putin, received 27.24 percent of the vote to finish second.

Navalny has accused the Kremlin and the Moscow mayor's office of rigging the vote to help Sobyanin barely pass the 50 percent mark.

Gorbunov was skeptical about the allegations, calling them “ungrounded statements backed by nothing.” But he promised the commission would review any complaint from Navalny.

Navalny and his campaign staff said they doubted that a recount would change the results anyway.

“They state that they are ready to recount the vote, but we understand they will try to deceive us,” Navalny said, addressing a crowd of more than 20,000 supporters in Bolotnaya Square in downtown Moscow.

Navalny said that to prevent a runoff, the Kremlin may risk putting him back in prison.

In mid-July, a little more than a month into the mayoral campaign, Navalny was sentenced to five years of imprisonment for an alleged 2009 embezzlement involving a provincial timber company.

He denounced the verdict as being politically motivated.

Navalny spent a night in prison and was released the next day pending an appeal, which allowed him to continue in the mayoral race.

Some experts believed that Navalny's speedy release was the result of mass protests in Moscow and across Russia, as well as the concerns of Western governments.

Others argued that authorities wanted him to continue in the race to legitimize the results.

Navalny threatened civil disobedience if things don't go his way.

“When the time comes, I may call upon you to take part in unlawful actions like upturning cars, firing up torches or something,” he said. “I am asking you to trust me.”

Navalny supporter Dmitry Oreshkin, whose independent Alliance of Observers placed monitors at 2,077 polling stations of 3,611 in Moscow, reported that at monitored stations, Sobyanin failed to reach 50 percent.

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