MOSCOW, September 20 (RIA Novosti) – A Moscow city court on Friday rejected the first of 952 lawsuits by runner-up mayoral candidate Alexei Navalny seeking to annul the September 8 election over alleged violations.
The remaining 951 lawsuits, each detailing a specific violation, were still pending separate review, said Navalny, who officially garnered 27.2 percent of the vote versus the 51.3 percent had by former Kremlin administration head and incumbent Mayor Sergei Sobyanin. No additional hearing dates for the suits were announced Friday.
The court will release its reasoning behind Friday’s rejection next week. A representative of Navalny has already said the opposition leader’s legal team would appeal the verdict.
Navalny claimed that Sobyanin’s staff mass-mailed campaign letters to Muscovites in violation of Russian privacy law; published campaign articles in a city-run newspaper on the day before the vote, a time when campaigning was prohibited; and sent city-funded food baskets to senior citizens, also as part of the campaign.
A City Hall representative said in the courtroom Friday that the food baskets were gifts for City Day, celebrated on the day before the election. The representative also said the newspaper’s editorial department was responsible for choosing when to publish the articles.
Moscow authorities also blamed the printing office for using personal data for campaign letters, Navalny reported on his blog.
Navalny, who led a near-unprecedented grassroots campaign to boost his rating from single digits in the early campaign polls, accused Sobyanin after the vote of foul play and claimed that about 2 percent of the ballots were rigged to spare the acting mayor a runoff, which would have been required if he got less than 50 percent of the vote.