Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was barred on Monday from running in next year’s presidential election after officials ruled he was ineligible to take part due to a suspended prison sentence he says was trumped up.
The decision by the central election commission was widely expected as election officials had repeatedly declared Navalny would be ineligible to run.
Twelve members of the 13-member commission voted to bar Navalny. One member abstained, citing a possible conflict of interest. Navalny, 41, who polls show would struggle to beat incumbent Vladimir Putin in the March election, said he would appeal and called on his supporters to boycott the election and campaign against it being held.
“We knew this could happen, and so we have a straight-forward, clear plan,” Navalny said in a pre-recorded video released immediately after the decision. “We announce a boycott of the election. The process in which we are called to participate is not a real election. It will feature only Putin and the candidates which he has personally selected.” Navalny said he would use his campaign headquarters across Russia to support the boycott and monitor turnout on voting day, March 18.