MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ally on Thursday (Friday in Manila) was sworn in as city chief despite claims of foul play in polls from his anti-Kremlin rival Alexei Navalny who sent a car-load of complaints to court.
Sergei Sobyanin, a Kremlin ally who barely avoided a run-off in Sunday’s closer-than-expected vote, was inaugurated for a new term during a pompous ceremony attended by Putin and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill.
Speaking in front of hundreds of guests, Putin said the elections were held during “a truly free, absolutely competitive battle, without any pressure or attempts to distort the results of these elections.”
“People saw that in our country and such big metropolises like Moscow power is established not with the help of destructive rallies and civilian confrontation but with the help of civilized democratic procedures,” Putin said in an apparent dig at Sobyanin’s opposition rival Navalny.
The ceremony at one of the capital’s landmark parks took place after the Moscow election commission refused to conduct a partial recount demanded by Navalny, who officially polled a stronger-than-projected 27.2 percent of the vote.
He insists that election officials helped Sobyanin avoid a run-off by allowing irregularities during at-home voting and at polling stations without observers.
At the inauguration, Putin acknowledged the “protest vote” but chalked it up to Muscovites’ anger with “snobbish” officials.
“The election campaign was not easy,” Sobyanin said during his inaugural address as he was presented with a massive golden chain, a symbol of office.
Navalny said however his team had documented evidence that the vote was partially rigged in favor of Sobyanin, who was appointed Moscow mayor in 2010 but had called the election before his term was due to end.
According to official results, Sobyanin received 51.3 percent of the vote, but Navalny’s team insists the inauguration should be cancelled because according to its data the mayor polled around 49 percent.
The election commission has dismissed the claims.