Russia’s electoral commission appears set to bar a leading liberal opponent of Vladimir Putin from standing in the forthcoming presidential election. Russian media report the body will cite problems with papers registering liberal party leader Grigory Yavlinsky as a candidate.
Opinion polls suggest Yavlinsky would have no chance of winning but his absence from the race would boost Putin’s hopes of avoiding a run-off vote.
The reports, and new complaints of harassment from an independent monitoring group, have raised fresh concerns about fairness in the March ballot.
Election watchdog Golos, which gets its funding from the West, has accused authorities of being behind efforts to force it from its Moscow office.
The prime minister remains the firm favourite to win the election, despite his United Russia party suffering a much reduced vote in December’s parliamentary election.
Putin rejects any suggestions of interference in the electoral process and has blamed the US for fuelling protests against him.
Tens of thousands took to the streets in the aftermath of the legislative vote, claiming its outcome was rigged. The protest movement is likely to gather new momentum in the run-up to the presidential poll.