Russia’s opposition protests the president
Protesters across Russia will gather today for demonstrations, the occurrence of which will serve as an unpleasant birthday gift for President Vladimir Putin. The demonstrators want their leader, Alexei Navalny, on the March 2018 presidential election ballot.
Due to an embezzlement conviction, which he claims is fabricated, Mr Navalny is barred from competing. He cannot attend today’s protests, as he is serving a separate sentence —20 days in prison for holding an unauthorised demonstration. Navalny’s supporters argue these efforts mark government attempts to silence opposition to Putin.
The Kremlin may be concerned that, if on the ballot, Navalny could gain traction; he won 27% of the vote in Moscow’s 2013 mayoral elections. On the other hand, a decisively poor performance from the opposition would lend an image of added legitimacy to Putin’s near-certain re-election.
If Navalny’s absence and the official prohibition of demonstrations depress voter turnout, the influence of today’s rallies will be diminished. Even if the demonstrators succeed in getting the opposition leader on the ballot, it may be more a sign that Putin wishes to boost the appearance of electoral credibility, not that he is bowing to public pressure.
WHAT TIME IS IT ANYWAY?
US and Russian envoys to discuss UN peacekeepers for Ukraine
A top Kremlin official will “synchronise watches” with the US envoy to the Ukrainian conflict today, says a Russian government spokesperson.
Since Kurt Volker and Vladislav Surkov first compared timepieces, Vladimir Putin has proposed deploying UN peacekeepers to Ukraine’s restive Donbass region. Details of the proposal are sketchy. Putin first said blue-helmets should be deployed only along the line of engagement, but later implied they might accompany observers into separatist-held territory.
Ukraine’s president is sceptical. He thinks Moscow might be trying to “preserve” another conflict along its borders. Instead, Kiev wants any peacekeeping mission to patrol the border with Russia, over which weapons flow to separatists.
While some have called Mr Putin’s proposal “strange”, he proposed the UN mission just weeks after US officials recommended Donald Trump provide Ukraine with defensive weapons—suggesting there’s nothing wrong with his timekeeping.
A LANDMARK ELECTION
Liberian political parties to hold same-day rallies
Today, the Alternative National Congress and the ruling United Party will stage rallies in Monrovia, stoking fears of violence ahead of the October 10 general election. The ANC accused the UP of denying it’s right to free association, while the latter is calling their event a pre-victory rally.
With incumbent Ellen Sirleaf constitutionally limited to two terms, this will be Liberia’s first post-war power transition between democratically elected governments. Following the Ebola crisis, the next government must tackle widespread poverty, stabilise the economy, and eliminate corruption.
Facing over 1,000 parliamentary candidates representing 26 parties, 49% of voters remain undecided. Of 20 presidential candidates, Vice President Joseph Boakai of the ANC, footballer-turned-senator George Weah and former acting president Charles Brumskine are the main contenders.
While the run-up has been relatively peaceful, 61% of Liberians believe election disputes could reignite conflict. Considering previous presidents ascended via counterinsurgencies, coups and a president’s death, there is no room for complacency.