Putin Critic Alexey Navalny Needs ‘Miracle’ to Run for President, Despite Drawing Thousands to Protests

Navalny 2018
Russian leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny meets with his supporters as part of his presidential election campaign rally in Tula, Russia, May 27. Evgeny Feldman/Handout/Reuters

Kremlin critic and protest leader of the moment Alexey Navalny needs a “miracle” in order to officially take on Vladimir Putin or anyone else in Russia’s presidential elections next year.

In a blunt assessment of the popular but marginalized activist, Russia’s electoral commission confirmed suspicions it is next to impossible one of the Russian leadership’s most formidable opponents would be allowed to run for the country’s top office.

Read More: Who is Russia’s Alexey Navalny and what is he protesting for?

“I understand and he understands that he has no chance to be registered for the elections because of his criminal record,” Ella Pamfilova, the head of Russia’s electoral commission told independent TV channel Dozhd.

Navalny’s conviction for fraud is controversial as his ongoing suspended sentence means he is not eligible to run for public office at the next presidential elections, currently set for March 2018.

Pamfilova was dismissive of Navalny’s chances to even make it on the ballot unless “some miracle happens,” meaning his record is wiped.

Navalny and other members of the opposition have dismissed his conviction for fraud as a cynical move by the government, convicting him on trumped-up charges to keep him out of the political mainstream. He and his brother both appeared in court in 2014, when his brother Oleg Navalny received a harsher sentence and now serves three and a half years in jail.

Alexey Navalny famously shocked the Russian establishment by giving Putin-ally Sergey Sobyanin stiff competition in the last mayoral election in 2013, earning about a third of the vote. Since then his allegations against government figures and investigations on his blog have earned him immense support, especially among the internet-savvy youth.

Russia’s Supreme Court ruled in Navalny’s favor in November, calling for a retrial, meaning the injunction on him running for office until 2033 was off. Navalny announced in December he would run for president in 2018. But less than two months later, his conviction was upheld.

Twice in 2017 he has summoned thousands nationwide to rally against alleged corruption by the government—most recently, earlier this week. However Pamfilova is not keen to discuss the activist, hinting that privately she is suspicious of his motives.

“The thing is that I would prefer not to talk about Alexey Anatolievich Navalny at all,” she said. “Why do I not want to speak? At present I am an official. I head an institution which is obliged to register candidates and I do not have the right right now to voice my position about potential candidates. Regardless, he has practically no chance of being registered.”