MOSCOW, September 9 (RIA Novosti) – Moscow's pro-Kremlin incumbent mayor has officially won the election to keep running Russia's capital with more than 50 percent of the vote, the Moscow election commission announced Monday morning, meaning there will be no runoff with his main rival, opposition activist Alexei Navalny.
With all votes counted, Sergei Sobyanin won 51.37 percent, while Navalny finished in second place with 27.24 percent, the commission said.
The Communist Party’s Ivan Melnikov finished third with 10.69 percent, Yabloko party candidate Sergei Mitrokhin received 3.51 percent, Duma deputy and LDPR’s candidate Mikhail Degtyaryov won 2.86 percent, and A Just Russia’s Nikolai Levichev got 2.79 percent, according to the official results.
Navalny disputed the final vote tally at a press conference at his campaign headquarters Sunday night, claiming there was evidence of serious vote rigging.
On Twitter, he announced that his team did not recognize the results, demanded a second election round, and called for a citizens’ protest on Monday
“If City Hall and the Kremlin are going to ignore the demands of the people, then tomorrow we will call everyone out on the streets of the city,” he wrote on his personal Twitter page early Monday morning.
A press release sent out by Navalny’s campaign headquarters at 8 p.m. Sunday evening claimed that exit polls showed he had gained 35.6 percent of the vote and put Sobyanin at just 46 percent.
According to city election law, a second runoff round is unnecessary if any candidate receives more than 50 percent of the final vote. If no candidate manages to win more than half, a second round is held between the top two contenders.
“We are ready for a political decision to be made in the Kremlin in favor of avoiding a second round and we are ready for mass falsification after the polling places close,” Navalny’s campaign team said in its press release.
Sobyanin’s campaign manager Lyudmila Shvetsova praised the election as transparent and free of violations. “There were no significant complaints, problems, violations in Moscow,” she was quoted by the Dozhd television channel as saying. “There was nothing that could compromise Muscovites’ will and desire to participate in the mayoral election.”
Sobyanin, the incumbent mayor backed by the ruling United Russia party, was widely expected to win the election by a large margin.
Support for Navalny, however, was significantly higher than predicted by polling agencies even a week before the election.
A survey by the independent pollster Levada Center on September 1 predicted the anti-corruption activist and opposition leader to win only about 18 percent of the vote, compared to an anticipated 58 percent for Sobyanin.
Political experts earlier told RIA Novosti that a 20 percent benchmark would be a “good result” for the protest leader.
The Moscow mayoral election – the first in nine years and marked by a low turnout of 26 percent, despite massive media coverage and prominent campaigns by most of the hopefuls – was the most important among hundreds of regional and municipal elections that took place in Russia Sunday.
Gubernatorial elections, in addition to Moscow, were held in seven other Russian provinces, including Moscow Region and the volatile North Caucasus republics of Ingushetia and Dagestan.
The ruling United Russia party dominated most of the races, with the notable exception of Yekaterinburg, where opposition candidate Yevgeny Roizman beat out United Russia’s Yakov Silin for mayor.
Updated with quotes and background information