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MOSCOW, September 16 (RIA Novosti) – Moscow’s pro-Kremlin mayor, who recaptured his post after a closely watched election last weekend, said Monday he would not run for Russia’s presidency in 2018, but suggested that his victory against opposition leader Alexei Navalny has bolstered his legitimacy.
Asked about plans to run in the next presidential race, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, an ally and former head of President Vladimir Putin’s administration, said “I will not.”
He also stressed the validity of the September 8 polls, in which turnout, according to official figures, was 32 percent, significantly lower than the 45 percent or so predicted by pollsters.
“This level indicates that the election was fair,” he told participants of a Kremlin-supported international conference in northwestern Russia, known as the Valdai Discussion Club.
Sobyanin was sworn in on Thursday, following a court ruling earlier in the day rejecting Navalny’s bid to overturn the election results on claims of widespread violations. Sobyanin won 51 percent of the vote, while Navalny came in second with 27 percent, some 10 percentage points more than major pollsters had anticipated.
Navalny was convicted of embezzlement in July in a trial he and his supporters called politically motivated. He was released after one day in jail, pending his appeal of the verdict. Some analysts have speculated that Russian authorities allowed Navalny – Sobyanin’s only serious rival – to run in Moscow’s mayoral race to make the contest seem more legitimate.
Speaking at the Valdai conference, Sobyanin also reiterated his tough position on migrant labor in the Russian capital, a stance he and Navalny have in common, and called for stricter visa rules with “problem countries.” He did not specify which countries he meant.
Russia depends heavily on migrant laborers, mostly from former Soviet republics in Central Asia and the Caucasus, and public opinion about the trend is quite negative. About 60 percent of Russia’s 5 million migrant workers are in the country illegally, the Federal Migration Service said in March.
Sobyanin said earlier this year that migrant workers should not be encouraged to settle down in the capital.
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