‘I don’t like the Central Election Commission’ Alexey Navalny's speech to the government officials who moments later barred him from Russia's 2018 presidential election (full translation)

20:02, 25 december 2017

Russia’s Central Election Commission refused to register Alexey Navalny’s presidential candidacy on December 25, a day after the opposition politician’s campaign staged nomination gatherings in 20 cities across the country and Navalny personally submitted his candidacy application to the commission. Before the formal vote, Navalny addressed the commission in a fiery speech where he called on election officials to let him compete in the March 2018 presidential race. Meduza presents an English translation of Navalny’s remarks.

Alexey Navalny addresses Russia's Central Election Commission, arguing with Commissioner Ella Pamfilova

Central Election Commissioner Ella Pamfilova: Before we reach our decision, as in other cases, we cede the floor to Mr. Navalny. The podium is yours.

Alexey Navalny: I don’t like the Central Election Commission, and I’d venture that you don’t like me very much, either. But the strange thing is this: I’m constantly doing your job for you.

For the second time in my life, I’m addressing a meeting of the Central Election Commission about the same thing: “What, folks, do we have to do, so more people come out to the polls? So that Russian citizens — who for the past 18 years have completely stopped believing that elections have any effect — actually believed in this process again and came to the polls to make a conscious choice and wield some real influence over what’s happening in this country.” And the amazing thing is that I call on you and call on you, and you always say, “No.”

The last time I spoke here was in support of the opposition party lists, which were only in some regions — in Novosibirsk, Kaluga, and Magadan, as I recall. And in the audience today there’s a person who fasted and went hungry, by the way, because he wasn’t allowed to compete in Novosibirsk’s elections. You didn’t admit anyone.

Ella Pamfilova: Mr. Navalny, when was this? The last time was during the [Central Election Committee’s] old makeup?

Alexey Navalny: This was under your predecessor, Ms. Pamfilova, but you know perfectly well that the essence of this commission hasn’t changed in the slightest. I’m looking at you now, and it’s exactly the same. On the one hand, this whole place is an amazing cause for celebration. People come here — fine, respected people — and they have every right to participate in elections. But these people haven’t been campaigning in any visible way. And everything’s great. You all wish each other happy holidays, you wish each other success, and everybody rejoices. Everything is wonderful.

On the other hand, when I come here, for some reason we never manage to get along…

Ella Pamfilova: Mr. Navalny, we’re seeing you today for the first time…

Alexey Navalny: How much time do I have [to speak]?

Ella Pamfilova: As much as you need. But this is the first time we’ve seen you. Please don’t generalize.

Alexey Navalny: Thank you very much. And in return please don’t interrupt me, okay? You’re seeing me for the first time. That’s great, but your colleagues aren’t seeing me for the first time. After all, I’m not here as your guest, but as a citizen before an institution. And this institution has operated the same under both [former Commissioner] Mr. Churov and Ms. Pamfilova, working its legal needlepoint. [Commission member] Mr. Ebzeyev, I listened to your remarks, and as a lawyer myself I thought, “Lord, how well this person speaks!” The whole thing is so beautifully constructed and so many words were said, with so many various references (even to the International Human Rights Convention!), but above this entire tapestry is the inscription: “You are not allowed to participate in the elections. We won’t permit those who oppose corruption. We won’t admit those who aren’t afraid of criticizing the authorities in power. We won’t permit those who actually campaign for office.” We can all see this. It’s a bold, red inscription.

A hundred thousand people protested against you [in 2011]. The people who came to these demonstrations declared that the authorities — the president and the Central Election Commission — falsified the elections, deceived millions of people, and stole millions of votes. They protested and they told you all this. So you changed a few formal things, but you’ve continued doing the same exact thing. You’ve continued telling people: “You aren’t allowed in the elections. We’ll never allow you anywhere because you threaten our cozy little world — you threaten us and the candidates who don’t even try to campaign for votes, and the predetermined election results.” Before it was more about the results of the election falsification, and now it’s more about the results of barring candidates from the election itself.

Even all your legal configurations — Mr. Ebzeyev, I’m addressing you specifically now — are completely false, despite your impressive biography. If the Constitution of the Russian Federation formulates a provision, in doing so it transforms it into a rule of substantive law. It’s written in black and white that any competent, free person has the right to run for elected office. The Central Election Commission, of course, is a depressing place, but it’s not so cheerless that it needs to be considered a place where people’s liberties are denied, which is why I have the right to compete in this election.

Moreover, this commission previously stated that my conviction was repeatedly verified in different cases. Now I can inform you that my verdicts were verified, and I proved in the European [Human Rights] Court that these rulings were falsified, and we have direct rulings about this.

Moreover, dear friends, I want to point out that you don’t even have the right any longer to speak the words “international convention” or “European Court” because there was a special ruling to review how the Russian Federation implemented the “Navalny v. Russia” decision — a special, legally-recorded ruling that Russia was required to accept — and the review found that the Russian Federation had not fulfilled the European Court’s decision. And it was written separately that Alexey Navalny should be allowed to compete in the election. Because it’s perfectly obvious to everyone — and there’s no need to pretend that you don’t understand this — that these cases against me were fabricated to keep me from the elections. That is the point of this whole legal labyrinth. And it’s absolutely obvious to everyone.

But I didn’t come here today to take part in some kind of legal debate, though the last thing I’ll point out about the legal issue is that you’re misleading people, saying that the Constitutional Court has reviewed this. The Constitutional Court reviewed the provision on guarantees of election rights, but presidential elections are regulated by another law, and this law has not been the subject of a review by the Constitutional Court.

Of course, I didn’t come here today to split hairs. I came here to say that I represent an enormous number of voters. You might think that’s funny, or maybe you don’t, but I’m quite certain that the Central Election Commission’s decision not to allow me to compete in this election, if that is your decision, will rob millions of people of their votes. You’d be excluding millions of people from the political system itself, because you wouldn’t be giving them the chance to participate in this election. And your decision today is precisely about this.

One of you said, “There’s nothing for us to discuss here. For us, this isn’t a conflict or a cause for doubt.” In other words, you do have a cause for doubt, whatever the system you build to prove to yourself that you’re still good people, so you can come home at night, look into the mirror, and say, “I’m a good person because just look at how much was said.” But, no, it isn’t so. If you don’t let me compete in this election, you won’t be ruling against me but against those who…

Ella Pamfilova: How much more time do you need?

Alexey Navalny: I need another two minutes.

Ella Pamfilova: Okay, please proceed.

Alexey Navalny: Thank you very much. You’ll be ruling against the 16,000 people who nominated me yesterday. And against the 200,000 volunteers who have spent a year working on the campaign. And against the millions of people who have spent the past year demanding from you one simple thing: “Let Navalny into the election.”

This isn’t about Navalny, but about the fact that we need a candidate who will at last speak plainly about what’s happening in this country — someone who will finally describe our reality, our lack of opportunity, our poverty, and more. I’ve done all this, and that is precisely why you don’t want to let me compete in this election.

Before I conclude, I want to tell you again: you are not robots. You all appear to me to be thoroughly alive. I could reach out and touch each of you rosy, well-fed human beings. And the Central Election Commission is an independent agency. I understand everything going on in your heads, and I realize the complexity of your situation. But you could probably manage one decent act in your lives, right? I’m not even talking about an act of heroism. Nobody has a gun to your heads. I’m talking about one simple thing based on the law — could you do that? Don’t do it for me. Do it to fulfill the election commission’s own function. This is your profession — your calling, I suppose.

You spend your lives on these elections, and it turns out that it’s to keep someone from competing. For once in your lives, could you do the right thing? I’m telling you to do the right thing. If you do not, I assure you that an enormous number of people won’t come to this election. We will boycott it actively, opposing and protesting it. I assure you that we will be heard, and I promise that no one will recognize either the election process or its results.

Translation by Kevin Rothrock

Photo on front page: Evgeny Feldman for the Navalny campaign