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Demonstrators rally for disqualified independent candidates in Moscow city election

Demonstrators rally for disqualified independent candidates in Moscow city election
About a thousand people protested in downtown Moscow after the names of independent candidates weren't included on the ballot papers for a local election.

The crowd at first banged on the doors of the city hall and then rallied outside the election commission building.

The protest was prompted by the decision by the city’s election commission to disqualify several candidates who were not affiliated with any party. The authorities said they hadn’t gathered enough legitimate signatures as required for independent  contenders, while the city council hopefuls insist that all their submissions were correct. They have until July 16 to appeal the decision.

The unsanctioned rally was led by opposition figures, Dmitry Gudkov, Ilya Yashin and Lyubov Sobol, all of whom were affected by the commission’s decision. They said the crowd was made up of ordinary people who had submitted their signatures and were unhappy that they’d been ruled fake.

The protesters didn’t carry any banners, but there were a lot of chants, including “This is our city!” “We want fair election!” and “Let them run!”

Protesters demanded to meet the election commission head Valentin Gorbunov, but his office said he was away from the city in his country house, which prompted the protesters to chant: “We are more important than potatoes!” in reference to the Russian tradition of vegetable gardening in summer. In the evening demonstrators began erecting tents outside the election commission’s office, saying that they were going to stay there until Monday morning.

The police who had been just observing the crowds before demanded the demonstrators to leave and started pushing them out of the election commission territory. Some 25 people were arrested for ignoring "the lawful demands of the officers,” according to police. Yashin and Sobol were among those detained.

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