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23 Aug, 2013 12:14

Navalny’s Montenegro firm no obstacle in mayoral race – election official

Navalny’s Montenegro firm no obstacle in mayoral race – election official

The head of the Moscow city elections commission has said although reports about Aleksey Navalny’s company in Montenegro have been confirmed, the rules do not forbid mayoral candidates from owning foreign businesses.

Russian law precludes candidates from owning securities and bank accounts in foreign countries, but there is no direct ban on foreign business, Valentin Gorbunov told the RIA Novosti news agency. The official noted that, according to official data, candidate Navalny did not possess any banned foreign assets and cannot be removed from the election race.

The city elections boss noted that his commission had not received any official complaints concerning Navalny’s Montenegrin company and promised that if such complaints arrive they will be duly considered.

A short time earlier, Russian reporters and bloggers discovered and started spreading the information that Aleksey Navalny was a founder of the Montenegrin company MRD, suggesting that the famous anti-corruption activist should be taken off the elections under the law that forbids officials from owning foreign assets.

Navalny and his elections HQ blasted the report as blatant lies. When bloggers posted screenshots of the Montenegrin tax register that listed Navalny as one of the founders of MRD, the opposition leader alleged that the foreign tax agency had been attacked by hackers who had altered the data.

However, the Montenegrin administration confirmed both the existence of MRD and the fact that Navalny was its founder. Curiously, another founder of the same company turned out to be Maria Gaidar, the daughter of the late acting PM and locomotive of early Russian market reforms, Yegor Gaidar.

Navalny is running on the ticket of the pro-market party RPR-Parnas (Republican Party of Russia – Party of People’s Freedom).

The officials reported that Navalny’s firm was registered as far back as in 2007, but since then it has conducted no operations and no accounts were opened for it.

Acting Mayor of Moscow Sergei Sobyanin.(RIA Novosti / Denis Grishkin)

To this, the head of Navalny’s elections headquarters Leonid Volkov said that neither Navalny nor Gaidar had ever submitted any papers to register a company in Montenegro, and were completely unaware of its existence. The activist suggested that some third persons had done this in their names, but did not elaborate on possible reasons for such a move.

It should be noted that one potential candidate – billionaire politician Mikhail Prokhorov – earlier explained his refusal to participate in the mayoral race by the limitations of the ban on ownership of foreign assets. Prokhorov said that his international interests (which include, among other things, the Brooklyn Nets NBA club) were too substantial and getting rid of them in a hurry would be too complicated.

The leading candidate in the race, acting Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, said in a radio interview that he would do all that depended on him to ensure that all registered candidates participate in the actual poll that is due on September 8.

Sobyanin explained that in his opinion the removal of any of the candidates would hurt the race, as all of them were figures with weight in the community.

At the same time, the acting mayor noted that the disclosed violations must not be “of fatal character.”

So far Russian media has reported on two alleged violations uncovered in the course of the mayoral campaign and Navalny’s team was involved in both of them. Firstly, on August 13, police uncovered an illegal campaigning center with a large number of newspapers and leaflets promoting Navalny’s candidacy, but printed in violation of the existing rules.

Leonid Volkov told reporters that the people who ran the center had no relation to Navalny’s official team, but were voluntary supporters, so-called Navalny’s Brothers, which is not technically against the law.

Another incident took place on August 22 when an inspection of a Moscow printing shop found campaign materials for two candidates – Aleksey Navalny and Ivan Melnikov of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.

The city elections commission has promised to decide on the issue before August 30.

The latest opinion poll by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center put Sobyanin at the front of the mayoral race at 67 per cent, with Navalny in second at 13 per cent. The forecasted turnout for the election is 45 per cent.

Another survey, performed by Russia’s Independent Levada Center earlier in July, suggests that Sobyanin will snatch 34 per cent of the vote in the capital, with Navalny grabbing just 4 per cent.