Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor today blocked a website of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny asking for a vote in opposition to the United Russia party in the September 19 legislative.
The “Smart Vote” page was blocked for using resources from Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund, an organization defined in June as an “extremist” by Russian justice.
This was the only digital page that had not yet been blocked by Russian authorities since Navalny’s conviction to two and a half years in prison in February of this year.
Previously, Roskomnadzor threatened Google and Russian Yandex with hefty fines if they did not block access to this page.
About a month before the elections, Navalny appealed, from the prison where he is, to vote for candidates who challenge United Russia (in power in Russia), whose intention to vote does not exceed 30 percent, according to various polls.
With the aim of preventing the victory of the official party, the opponent called for mobilization around the “Smart Vote” campaign, which he promoted, and with the aim of supporting the candidate who is best placed to defeat the opponent of the ruling party, whether liberal, communist or nationalist.
The authorities consider this campaign, which has already allowed the removal of official candidates from several regional parliaments, as “an instrument of external interference in the Russian elections”.
“They’re afraid of ‘Smart Voting’. We’ve tried it in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and cities in Siberia. It works. People hate United Russia,” Navalny said.
On this occasion, Navalny released an application that identifies with names and surnames the candidates most likely to prevent the election of the United Russia representative.
According to several analysts cited by the news agency Efe, the “Smart Vote”, which in the 2019 elections for the Moscow parliament managed to reduce the number of official deputies from 38 to 25, can influence the electoral results in the constituencies by majority vote.
Faced with this scenario, and according to the opposition, the authorities launched an intimidation campaign against hundreds of people linked to the regional networks of Navalny, and flooded the internet with fake applications similar to the “Smart Vote”.
The authorities also declared the organization Golos (Voto) as an “extremist”, which claims to be dedicated to defending the rights of voters and sends observers to polling stations.
The Russian opposition has already accused the Kremlin (Russian Presidency) of launching a campaign of “judicial persecution” and “political purge” as part of the next legislative period, which began a year ago with the poisoning of Navalny.
Several opposition politicians were forced to withdraw from their candidacies due to official pressure, and others were unable to register due to bureaucratic issues, in addition to the closure of organizations committed to protecting opposition activists and various independent ‘media’.