Russia politics: Quick View - Opposition leader Aleksei Navalny jailed (again)

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Economist Intelligence Unit
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Politics, News Analysis, Forecast, Political stability
Political Geography


On October 2nd the Russian authorities arrested Aleksei Navalny, an opposition leader, for the third time this year. Mr Navalny is preparing to run in the March 2018 presidential election.


Mr Navalny was arrested and subsequently jailed for 20 days for organising unauthorised protests to mark the 65th birthday of the president, Vladimir Putin, on October 7th. Several members of Mr Navalny's regional campaign teams have been arrested on similar charges across the country.

Mr Navalny emerged as a leading opposition figure during the 2011-12 protests. He has since brought attention to various perceived instances of corruption, including in March 2017 relating to the prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev. Mr Navalny has also announced his intention to launch a bid in the 2018 presidential election. According to the Levada Centre, a pollster, Mr Navalny currently commands about 1% of the total vote, compared with Mr Putin's 52%. Yet in the 2013 Moscow mayoral election, Mr Navalny came in second with 27% of the vote-no doubt a stark warning to the Kremlin. Demonstrations organised by Mr Navalny in March, June and October of this year consistently attracted thousands in cities across Russia. However, his traction among the general population still appears relatively low and we do not expect any significant political upheaval to take place before the 2018 presidential election.

The charismatic Mr Navalny seeks to challenge the authorities wherever he can. His anti-corruption agenda and nationalist slogans, as well as his growing political organisation, have led the authorities to perceive him as a threat. He will probably be barred from participating in the 2018 presidential election following a second conviction for defrauding Kirovles, a timber company. However, it is possible that he may be permitted to take part, in an attempt by the authorities to demonstrate that political pluralism exists in Russia.

Mr Putin has not yet announced whether he will run for president again, but he is widely expected to do so. Although his victory is not in doubt, a low turnout could cast a shadow over his re-election. A serious-seeming challenger could therefore help to increase participation, in turn bolstering Mr Putin's legitimacy.

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