MOSCOW – Opposition leader Alexei Navalny swept up far more votes than expected Sunday while finishing second in Moscow’s mayoral election, a pivotal contest that has energized Russia’s small opposition in ways that could pose a risk to the Kremlin in the days and years ahead.
Partial results released early today showed Navalny with about 27 percent of the vote, while the Kremlin-backed incumbent, Sergei Sobyanin, held a clear lead with about 52 percent. Exit polls, however, predicted Navalny would get as much as 32 percent.
As the results only began to trickle out two hours after the polls closed, Navalny said he suspected the vote count was being manipulated.
The election was being watched for what it bodes for the future of the opposition and for Navalny. He faces time in prison after being convicted of embezzlement in a case seen as part of a Kremlin effort to sideline him, but his strong showing could lead to a shortening of his five-year sentence.