Russia's Central Election Commission ruled on Feb. 5 that 15% of signatures collected by anti-war politician Boris Nadezhdin, who is a potential candidate in the upcoming Russian presidential election, were invalid.
According to rules set by the commission, if more than 5% of signatures are deemed invalid, the prospective candidate is not allowed to be registered on the ballot.
Nadezhdin, who previously served in Russia's parliament, has attracted attention for repeatedly voicing his opposition to the war on television. He called the full-scale war a mistake and said that Russia could not defeat Ukraine using its current methods.
He is a member of the center-right Civil Initiative party.
His campaign website explicitly lists his positions as "peace" instead of "militarism," "civil society" instead of "(Russian President Vladimir) Putin's (power) vertical," and "cooperation with European countries" rather than "Russia's isolation," among other views that contradict Putin's policies.
At the same time, Nadezhdin said in an interview with RFE/RL's Current Time project published on Jan. 12 that he supports the Russian constitution and considers himself a "Russian patriot." He also said that the citizens of Crimea wanted to join Russia. When asked if he would return the Ukrainian territories illegally occupied by Russia, he declined to answer directly.
Nadezhdin's team said in late January that it had collected the 100,000 signatures required to register as a candidate, but added that signatures would continue to be collected in case some were challenged by authorities.
The candidate registrations will be finalized on Feb. 7, but RFE/RL reported that Nadezhdin's team said they may challenge the decision in court.
Putin is seeking a fifth term as president in an election scheduled for March 2024 that he is widely expected to win handily.
Russia held a rigged vote in 2020 to approve constitutional amendments allowing Putin to run for two more presidential terms after his current one expires in 2024. The vote effectively made Putin, who has been in power since 1999, a dictator for life.
Freedom House, a nonprofit advocating international democracy, gave Russia a 0/4 score in its 2023 report card on political freedoms in the country.
"Russia has never experienced a democratic transfer of power between rival groups," described Freedom House.
Any meaningful opposition is prevented from having a fair chance at winning elections, creating "an authoritarian political system (that) is concentrated in the hands of President Vladimir Putin," the human rights group said.