At the moment, the opposition in Russia can only celebrate small victories.
What Boris Nadezhdin be on the ballot for the next presidential elections is one of them.
The politician, Vladimir Putin’s rival, says he managed to gather enough signatures to run for office in the next elections, which will be held from March 15th to 17th.
In order to present himself as a candidate, he had to gather more than 100,000 signatures, as required by the electoral authorities. Thousands of Russians lined up across the country in the cold to add their names to the list.
Shortly after the deadline for submitting signatures this Wednesday (31/1), Nadezhdin published a photo posing in front of several boxes containing the lists signed by his supporters.
“This is my pride: the work of thousands of people for many days without sleep. The result of the queues they lined up in the freezing cold is in these boxes,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
Now, the Central Election Commission (CEC) must review and approve your request.
If “irregularities” are found in any of the signatures presented, the commission may completely disqualify the candidate, as happened with Yekaterina Duntsovaan independent policy.
She was disqualified when she submitted her candidacy application in December because the electoral commission said it found 100 “errors” in her application.
Following the CEC’s disqualification, Duntsova joined the Russians supporting Nadezhdin’s candidacy.
Current President Putin has already registered as an independent candidate for the March elections, in which his victory for another six-year term is seen as almost certain.
If Putin is indeed re-elected, At the end of his term, he will have spent 30 years in charge of the country as president or prime minister.
But who is the candidate who dares to challenge the current president?
Old acquaintance of the Kremlin
Nadezhdin, 60 years old, was a councilor for more than 30 years. In November last year he announced that he would run for president with the center-right Civic Initiative party, founded by former liberal Minister of Economic Development Andrey Nechayev.
He is an old acquaintance in Russian politics and has long ties to people in the Kremlinsuch as Sergei Kiriyenko, Russian Prime Minister in 1998, to whom he was an assistant between 1997 and 1998.
He was also a deputy of the Russian State Duma (the equivalent of the Chamber of Deputies in Brazil) from 1999 to 2003, after working as an advisor to First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov.
He tried to present himself as a candidate for governor of the Moscow region, but failed. Since September 2019 he has been a deputy in the city district of Dolgoprudny.
Outside of politics, in 1999, he founded the Law department at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, directing it until 2016. He has a PhD in Physical Sciences and Mathematics and a degree in Law.
Anti-war and anti-reelection
Nadezhdin’s opposition to Putin is nothing new.
In March 2020, he opposed the approval of amendments to the Constitution that allowed Putin’s re-election for a fifth term.
But in recent months, he has become more visible with his relatively open criticism of Putin and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Before, however, he supported the annexation of Crimea. He said it was a decision made by the people of Crimea and even praised the Russian Army.
The motto with which he presents himself in his electoral campaign is clear: “Putin must go”.
That way, Nadezhdin has become a rare critical voice to appear frequently in interviews on state television channelswhere he said he tries to express “sensible and fair ideas in an environment of general madness”.
“[Putin] practically destroyed the key institutions of the modern Russian state. My job will be to restore these institutions,” Nadezhdin said recently.
He also told the BBC that, If elected, his first task will be to end the war.
“My first task will be to put an end to the conflict with Ukraine and then reestablish normal relations between Russia and the Western community.”
Nadezhdin also joined a group of women who, in an unusual activity in modern-day Russia, gathered to publicly criticize the war. Their husbands are among the 300,000 reservists recruited.
In a country where opposition figures have been jailed or even murdered, Nadezhdin’s recent criticism appears to be being tolerated so far.
And the highest spheres of power also seem to be calm.
“We don’t see him as a rival,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.when asked about Nadezhdin, earlier this month.
And although Nadezhdin collected the necessary signatures, There is still a long way to go before he is considered an official candidate. Firstly, you must not be blocked by the electoral commission and, secondly, you must be able to campaign freely.
In Putin’s Russia, many candidates were able to run in elections, but without any real possibility of winning and sometimes even without intentions of overthrowing the president.
This scenario maintains a facade of democracy and in Nadezhdin’s case, it would allow Russians dissatisfied with the “special military operation,” as the Kremlin calls the invasion of Ukraine, to express their anger and frustration in a way that does not threaten Putin’s government.
In recent years, authentic popular opposition figures who do not appear in state media, such as Alexei Navalny and Ilya Yashin, have been sentenced to long prison terms.
Others, such as Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, for whom Nadezhdin once worked as an adviser, were killed.
Russia’s political scene has been dominated by Vladimir Putin since 2000. And in 2020 a constitutional amendment was approved that allowed him to remain in power beyond 2024.
A victory in March would allow him to remain president until 2030. After that, he could stay another six years until 2036 if he decides to run again.
Nadezhdin, whose name looks like nadezhdaa Russian word that means hope, takes advantage of the similarity and repeats that it has the support of “tens of millions of people”.
“I am absolutely certain that Putin will not rule Russia for another six years, because more and more people understand that he is dragging Russia down the path of militarism, authoritarianism and isolation,” he says, fearlessly.