Citizens in Russia’s capital, Moscow, are going to the polls to choose a mayor.
The Kremlin-backed incumbent Sergei Sobyanin is widely expected to win Sunday’s election . Sergei Sobyanin has some very strong backers He was Russian PresidentVladimir Putin’s chief of staff. Sobyanin was appointed mayor three years ago.
Sobyanin’s opponent is blogger Alexei Navalny. The race has been described as the first genuinely competitive Russian election since the early post-Soviet years.
Alexei Navalny is campaigning under the burden of a five-year prison sentence. The 37-year-old opposition leader, who exposed government corruption, says the charges are politically motivated and intended to silence him. Navalny received his sentence in July, leaving the courtroom in handcuffs. A day later he was suddenly released, pending appeal. Last year Alexei Navalny led street rallies against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Navalny is blocked from state-run television. His supporters communicate and raise money through the Internet. Others say Russia needs a change, what they call more political fresh air.
“They want Moscow elections to be legitimate, to legitimize Sergei Sobyanin, and to get him re-elected having at least some viable opponent,” said, Lilia Shevtsova, who analyzes Russian politics for Carnegie Moscow Center, referring to Kremlin strategists. “And at the same time, they would like to play a chess game and to undermine Navalny’s potential, and they believe this is still possible.”
Opinion polls indicate Sobyanin will handily win a majority of votes, with Navalny earning about 20 percent.