Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nizhny Court Upholds Poll Annulment

A Nizhny Novgorod court Friday upheld a decision by the local electoral commission that annulled a March 29 election for mayor won by controversial Andrei Klimentyev.

Ruling that violations of procedure on voting day made the poll invalid, the court rejected a request by Klimentyev, a local businessmen on trial for embezzlement, to overturn the annulment.

Klimentyev's supporters have argued that the electoral commission decided to annul the mayoral election in Russia's third largest city under political pressure from the Kremlin, which was embarrassed by Klimentyev's shady past and his hostility to top officials in Moscow.

Alexei Svetlichny, a member of Klimentyev's campaign team, said that during the three-day hearing, the court had justified the decision to annul the election on new evidence that the electoral commission had not cited when it annulled the election.

In its original finding, the electoral commission annulled the election because it alleged three of the five candidates committed gross "violations of the electoral laws" during the campaign.

But Svetlichny said the court found fault with the election on other grounds. It based its decision on evidence from two witnesses who said their rights as voters were abused on polling day.

Svetlichny said the shift in legal arguments was a sign that the electoral commission's original findings were inconsistent.

"After that it was all very simple. Regardless of the previous decisions of the electoral committee, the court ordered the committee to invalidate the results anyway because voters' rights were abused during the poll," Svetlichny said.

Svetlichny, who worked as an electoral observer, said he had personally been present when electoral commission officials signed a document stating that there were no violations during the poll. The commission was ordered by the court to annul this document Friday.

Svetlichny was also angry that Klimentyev was in jail during the entire length of the three-day hearing on his suit. "Without Klimentyev, only one side could win," Svetlichny said.

During the election, Klimentyev was on bail pending a retrial on charges that he misappropriated a $2.5 million Finance Ministry loan. But on April 1, the day after the election was annulled, the court hearing the trial decided to revoke bail and rearrest Klimentyev.

Since then, Klimentyev has been charged with additional offenses, allegedly committed during the campaign. These include slandering the regional governor, supplying false information about one rival candidate and invading the privacy of another.

Klimentyev's victory provoked an angry reaction from top Russian government officials, including then-acting First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, a former governor of Nizhny Novgorod who had been associated with Klimentyev but later broke with him.

Svetlichny said Klimentyev will appeal Friday's court decision to a regional court, although he has not yet submitted a petition. "We will go all the way to international court, but before that we will have to go through all levels of courts here," Svetlichny said.

Friday's city court decision should, however, clear the way for the Nizhny Novgorod City Duma, the local legislature, to set a date for fresh mayoral elections. By law, the poll must take place by July 1, no more than three months after the annulment of the elections.