Some 20-25 thousand people took to the streets of Moscow last Saturday to protest against the city authorities’ refusal to let independent candidates run for the city council. By itself, 20-25k doesn’t seem like an impressive crowd for a city of 13 million, but it actually is. On a weekend in the middle of the summer vacation season, the city gets depopulated. The Kremlin and the city hall expected no more than 10-15k, although I’m judging by rumors and leaks.
Overall, it appears that the city’s electoral commissions have disqualified 27 or 28 candidates by declaring invalid over 10% of the roughly 5,000 signatures each of them collected. It means about 150,000 Muscovites were not allowed to field their candidates in the upcoming election. Measured against this disenfranchised group, last Saturday’s rally made up 13% to 16%, not bad at all.
A natural question to ask is why these opposition candidates didn’t try and imitate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s achievement in the Queens – gathering several times the number of signatures required? The answer is, it wouldn’t have helped: once the election commission declares that 10% or more of the minimum number of signatures are invalid, the candidate is out. This is what infuriates people so much, having their perfectly genuine signatures invalidated on some absurd pretext, as if the election officials declared them, the signatories, non-existent.