"In the past, Yavlinsky could be relied on to get a limited and predictable portion of the vote from urban, middle class intellectuals, and that was OK with the Kremlin," he says. "But since the mass demonstrations in December, everything's changed. Unlike others on the ballot, Yavlinsky could be an acceptable protest candidate for millions of people who are tired of Putin. He could catch a protest wave that would possibly prevent Putin from winning a first round knockout. So, they decided he had to be excluded."
Election official Nikolai Konkin, who announced the ruling today, insisted that it was purely a matter of technical propriety. Yavlinsky's supporters collected well over the two million signatures needed on nomination petitions in the 25 days allotted, but upon examination, officials found about a quarter of them to be invalid, Mr. Konkin said.
Yabloko's press spokesperson, Igor Yakovlev, says the party collected the necessary number of signatures despite the short time frame and harassment from local authorities. He says that disqualification of signatures is one of the standard methods from the "managed democracy" toolbox for keeping genuine challengers off the ballot.
"The decision not to register Yavlinsky is purely political, and we believe it was taken by Putin himself," says Mr. Yakovlev. "That's the way the system works. But if Yavlinsky is off the ballot, it means these presidential election lose whatever was left of their legitimacy."