Nationalist backed by Jewish advisers fails in Moscow mayor bid

Alexei Navalny, who was accused of raising a toast to the Holocaust, finishes behind Putin-supported Sergei Sobyanin

Alexei Navalny speaks to supporters in downtown Moscow. (photo credit: AP/Ivan Sekretarev)
Alexei Navalny speaks to supporters in downtown Moscow. (photo credit: AP/Ivan Sekretarev)

MOSCOW  — A nearly complete vote count shows the incumbent Moscow mayor has garnered 51 percent of the vote, with opposition leader Alexei Navalny finishing second.

The Moscow Election Commission said Monday morning that Sergei Sobyanin got 51 percent of the vote and Navalny 27 percent with 99.8 percent of the vote counted. That leaves Navalny, who has energized Moscow’s opposition in his grassroots campaign, 1 percent short of the run-off.

Sobyanin, who was backed by the Kremlin, had been favored to win.

Navalny’s campaign chief said overnight they will not recognize the official result because of the vote-rigging they say they have witnessed. Navalny would not comment on the result until all the votes are counted.

His campaign strategy was developed by Leonid Volkov and Maksim Kats, two tech-savvy Jews who provided Navalny with outside-the-box strategies designed to offset his disadvantage against Sobyanin.

Navalny’s candidacy has divided Russian Jews, who were torn between the candidate of an establishment that has been generally good for the Jews and an opposition leader with nationalist associations some find troubling who nevertheless promised to restore democracy and good governance.

A firebrand whose critics accuse him of populism, Navalny apologized for calling Georgians “rodents” in 2008. But he has defended his appearance at nationalist marches and his calls for deporting illegal migrants.

Last week, several Jewish media outlets reported that Navalny had raised a toast to the Holocaust at a reception in Moscow last year — a story that reportedly was placed by an Israeli public relations firm. Navalny categorically denied the story, as did several Jews who were in attendance.

Navalny also has had legal troubles. In July, he was convicted of embezzlement, a ruling that may land him in jail for five years if he loses his appeal. Navalny is being investigated as well in connection with two other corruption probes that he says are fabricated.

Many of his supporters have been detained by police.

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