Navalny delivering a speech late on Sunday in Moscow during a campaign rally for the mayoral poll.


Russian protest leader Alexei Navalny said yesterday that he was confident of securing enough votes to take next month’s election for Moscow mayor to a second round, despite “dishonest” campaigning by the pro-Kremlin incumbent.
Navalny, who faces jail after being convicted of embezzlement in a disputed trial last month, said he had accumulated 76mn rubles ($2.3mn) in donations from ordinary Russians and his poll rating had grown threefold to around 25%.
Sergei Sobyanin, the pro-Kremlin incumbent, is the overwhelming favourite to win the September 8 election, which will go to a second round if no single candidate takes at least 50% of the votes.
“We are convinced that the second round and possible victory are close,” Navalny told dozens of foreign journalists gathered outside his cramped office in central Moscow, as buses of riot police stood by.
Sobyanin, a dour former Kremlin official who was appointed to the post in 2010 before suddenly calling a snap election in June, is expected to secure more than 50 percent in the polls.
However, 37-year-old Navalny and his team say that support for the incumbent is waning.
Navalny, an eloquent lawyer who fearlessly mocks President Vladimir Putin, has amassed a throng of volunteers to hand out campaign newspapers and put up signs on balconies, and held dozens of neighbourhood meetings with residents of the Russian capital.
He was convicted of embezzlement last month, but in a surprise move a court postponed his sentence to allow him to run as mayor.
Yesterday he accused Sobyanin of using his status to try to sabotage his main rival.
“Can we consider this election honest? The answer is clearly not,” said Navalny, his voice almost drowned out by the din of honking cars after police blocked the street near his office.
“This election is competitive, because there is a real competition between me and Sobyanin, but to consider this election honest when Sobyanin is on television daily ... uses administrative pressure, has street cleaners remove my banners, and sends riot police to our press conference – it’s hard to recognise this election as honest.”
Navalny gathered a huge following during political protests that began in late 2011 and saw tens of thousands of people take to Moscow’s streets, becoming known for his rousing speeches.
He said he had been blocked from using large Moscow venues, and even struggled to campaign online, with Russia’s biggest social network refusing his advertising.
“We feel the pressure, this is just political reality in Russia,” he said.