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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yavlinsky to Appeal Yabloko Election Ban

The Yabloko party announced Sunday that it would appeal to the Central Elections Commission in an attempt to have its candidates restored to the ballot in the upcoming parliamentary election in St. Petersburg, Interfax reported.

Party leader Grigory Yavlinsky said the decision to strike Yabloko's list of candidates from the ballot for the March election was a blatant move to pressure the opposition, a party spokesman told Interfax.

Analysts said Saturday evening's decision to bar Yabloko could also be intended to persuade Yavlinsky to stay away from the more important State Duma election in December.

"The election commission took revenge on us because we are in opposition to the authorities," said the head of the party's St. Petersburg branch, Maxim Reznik.

Yabloko has vigorously opposed many initiatives by pro-Kremlin governor Valentina Matviyenko, including her support for a plan by gas monopoly Gazprom to build a 300-meter tower in a city renowned for its baroque architecture.

Yabloko was barred from polls after the electoral commission found that more than 10 percent of signatures were invalid on a petition by party supporters it needed to be allowed to run. Yabloko said it would challenge the decision in court.

Election officials could not be reached for comment.

Yavlinsky dismissed the ruling as "absurd." "The party has been participating in elections for 14 years, and we know how to collect signatures," he told Interfax.

Yabloko, once a major political player, has lost most of its influence during Vladimir Putin's presidency, which has been marked by a consolidation of political power in the Kremlin's hands.

Like all Russia's liberal parties it has lost seats in the national parliament, now dominated by the Kremlin-controlled United Russia party, but has retained seats in several local legislatures, including three in St. Petersburg's 50-member Legislative Assembly.

Analysts say the March 11 polls in St. Petersburg and several other regions will be a rehearsal for parliamentary elections meant to consolidate the Kremlin's hold over politics before Putin's successor is elected in March 2008.

United Russia controls most regional assemblies and it faces no real challenge at the national level. But opposition parties say they are facing growing pressure from local authorities keen to rule out any surprises.

The Communist Party was barred last week from local elections in the republic of Dagestan and the Tyumen region, also scheduled for March.

Yavlinsky, who accuses Putin of rolling back democracy and making elections a Kremlin-orchestrated show, has said his party could decide against running in the State Duma election.

Anatoly Makarkin of the Center for Political Technology said the decision by the St. Petersburg commission was a strong argument for Yavlinsky to stay away from the December polls.

"This is a signal for Yabloko: look, what will happen at parliamentary polls," he said. "This is also a signal for sponsors: don't finance Yabloko."

(MT, Reuters)