Inside a Man's Wire-Inspired Run for Mayor of Moscow

Alexei Navalny is getting to run a kinda sorta almost free campaign

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 6, 2013 9:03 AM CDT

(Newser) – This Sunday, Moscow will hold something almost unheard of in the Vladimir Putin era: an actual election. The Kremlin is for once allowing an avowed foe—anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny—to run, although the playing field is hardly even. Navalny is banned from running TV ads, while Kremlin-backed incumbent Sergei Sobyanin has filled the airwaves with them. Navalny, 37, has also been harassed by police, who once hauled him off stage at a rally in front of thousands of supporters, the New York Times reports.

Navalny was convicted on what the Economist calls "apparently fabricated" embezzlement charges in July, but his five-year prison sentence has been suspended. A political newcomer, he says he learned to campaign by watching The Wire. (Pakistan's Daily Times cites House of Cards and Homeland as additional influences.) Sobyanin has been striving to make Moscow seem like a normal European city, so he's encouraging Navalny's run. The mayor enjoys a commanding lead, but Navalny's street-level campaign has managed to boost his popularity rating from 3% to 20%, which he thinks will get him through the first round of voting. "During a second round, everything will change," he promises.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks at a news conference in Moscow, Russia, Sept. 5, 2013.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks at a news conference in Moscow, Russia, Sept. 5, 2013.   (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
The character Tommy Carcetti from The Wire, seen in this promotional image, ran for mayor as an underdog, relying on a lot of face-to-face interactions with voters and community leaders.
The character Tommy Carcetti from "The Wire," seen in this promotional image, ran for mayor as an underdog, relying on a lot of face-to-face interactions with voters and community leaders.   (Wikimedia)
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