Putin critic takes on Kremlin rival in Moscow polls
By Anna Smolchenko, AFPMOSCOW--A top critic of President Vladimir Putin on Sunday faced a Kremlin-backed incumbent in a hotly contested Moscow mayoral poll, the first time an opposition leader has been allowed to stand in a high-profile election.
September 9, 2013, 12:09 am TWN
In the Russian capital's first mayoral election in a decade, Muscovites had six candidates to choose from, including current pro-Kremlin Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and main opposition candidate Alexei Navalny.
Putin, who made no secret of his support for his former Kremlin chief of staff Sobyanin, said Moscow did not need a politician for a mayor.
“Such big cities do not so much need to be run by politicians,” he said after casting his vote in Moscow, adding such a city should be managed by “depoliticized people, technocrats.”
The candidacy of anti-corruption crusader and protest leader Navalny has made the race the first genuinely competitive Russian election since the heady early post-Soviet years.
The vote will be seen as a crucial test of the protest mood in a city which was shaken by huge demonstrations against Putin's decadelong rule in the winter of 2011-2012.
Moscow gave Putin a relatively low 46.95 percent of the vote in the 2012 presidential election, well below the nationwide average.
Opinion polls indicate Kremlin-backed Sobyanin, 55, will win a majority in the first round, while Navalny is set to come second with around 20 percent.
Turnout stood at 18.5 percent as of 1100 GMT, the Moscow election commission chief said, a relatively slack figure that officials hoped would improve.
The Moscow election was part of a nationwide day of local polls across the country, with Kremlin-backed establishment figures also being challenged in key cities like the main Urals centre of Yekaterinburg.