'Fascist' Russia bill could bar up to 200,000 Alexei Navalny supporters from running for parliament

Alexei Navalny

'Fascist' Russia bill could bar up to 200,000 Alexei Navalny supporters from running for parliament

A group of Russian lawmakers have introduced a bill that could ban anyone who has worked for Alexei Navalny or even made a donation to his foundation from running for parliament, with one critic describing it as “genuine fascism”.

The move comes on the heels of a sweeping Kremlin crackdown against Mr Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition politician, and his allies ahead of national elections this September.

Russian prosecutors last month filed a lawsuit asking the court to designate Mr Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation as an extremist organisation, potentially exposing 200 employees and thousands of donors to stiff fines and prison sentences.

A court has yet to make a ruling on that lawsuit but a separate injunction has already suspended the foundation’s activities.

The new bill would bar anyone who worked for an extremist organisation from running for parliament for five years, dropping to three years if they donated funds.

The legislation specifically mentions running for Russian parliament rather than public office in general. It would also apply retrospectively to anyone affiliated with Mr Navalny prior to the extremism designation.

Leonid Volkov, who ran the politician’s regional network until it was shut down last week, estimated that it might affect over 200,000 Russians.

He described it as “overt, retrospective disfranchisement for hundreds of thousand people. Genuine fascism.”

“We have seen a lot of ‘laws against Navalny,’ but certainly nothing like this,” Mr Volkov tweeted. “You can see fear in every line [of this bill].”

Although President Vladimir Putin’s ruling party United Russia is expected to still win comfortably in September’s polls, approval ratings last month hit an eight-year low.

Some United Russia candidates even ran as independents at the local elections in Moscow in 2019, a reflection of how the party is seen as increasingly toxic amid a flurry of corruption scandals.

Mr Navalny and his allies have been advocating for tactical voting that encourages Russians to back the strongest non-United Russia candidate in their district.

Mr Navalny, who rose to prominence thanks to his investigations into official corruption, survived a near-fatal nerve agent poisoning last year and spent months convalescing in Germany before returning to Russia in January.

He was arrested upon arrival, jailed and later sentenced to nearly three years in prison for failing to meet his probation officer while he was in hospital in Germany.

Mr Navalny himself is banned from running while he is in jail and potentially for several years afterwards, depending on the conditions of his eventual release.