Putin foe demands recount in Moscow mayoral race

Sep 09, 2013, 6:01 AM EDT
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks to the media at his headquarters in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013.
(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

MOSCOW (AP) — An opposition leader has demanded a recount in the Moscow mayoral election after official results showed the incumbent narrowly escaping a run-off.

Election officials earlier on Monday said Sergei Sobyanin had won with 51 percent of the vote.

Alexei Navalny, who got 27 percent, said in a statement posted in his blog that the final tally was "rigged" and demanded a recount.

Frustrated supporters of the anti-corruption crusader are gearing up for a protest rally this evening but Navalny said Monday that he is not seeking to bring unrest to Moscow and would like to meet with Sobyanin to organize the recount.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Moscow's incumbent mayor has been re-elected with 51 percent of the vote, just enough to avoid a run-off against opposition leader Alexei Navalny, election officials said Monday.

The Moscow Election Commission said Monday morning that Sergei Sobyanin got just over half the vote while Navalny, who energized the race into one of the most competitive in a decade, garnered 27 percent, a strong result for a Russian opposition leader. The election was closely-watched around the world amid concerns over the democratic process in Russia and following Navalny's recent conviction of embezzlement on charges he says were politically motivated.

Sobyanin, who has been mayor since 2011, said in comments carried by Russia news agencies that Moscow "passed the test for free and fair elections."

Some of Navalny's supporters called for a protest rally to contest the results: His campaign chief said overnight they will not recognize the official results because of vote-rigging they say they have witnessed.

Navalny, who earlier said he would not draw conclusions until all the votes are counted, has yet to comment.

Golos, Russia's leading independent election monitor, said the voting appeared to have gone smoothly, but there were fears that election officials would artificially increase the turnout to allow them to add votes for Sobyanin. The group will be presenting their assessment of the vote at a briefing later Monday.

Sunday's mayoral election was the first since 2003. Last year, the Kremlin reversed Putin's 2004 decree abolishing direct elections for the Moscow mayor and other regional leaders.