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Sergei Sobyanin wins Moscow mayoral election

By Jill Dougherty, CNN
updated 6:14 AM EDT, Mon September 9, 2013
Alexei Navalny prepares to cast his ballot during a mayoral election in Moscow, on September 8, 2013, with his daughter, Dasha.
Alexei Navalny prepares to cast his ballot during a mayoral election in Moscow, on September 8, 2013, with his daughter, Dasha.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sergey Sobyanin wins election with more than 51% of vote
  • Blogger and anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny scores 27%
  • Navalny has been convicted for embezzlement, but ran while out on bail
  • Despite Navalny's loss, some call it a breakthrough

Moscow (CNN) -- There wasn't a shadow of a doubt that former presidential aide and interim mayor of Moscow Sergey Sobyanin would win the mayoral race against blogger and anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny, not as President Vladimir Putin's hand-picked man.

The only question was by how much. Anything less than 50% would have meant a run-off election.

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There will not be a run-off. Sobyanin squeaked by with 51.37% of the vote. Navalny won 27.24%.

Russian opposition leader out of prison
Pavel Khodorkovsky on Navalny verdict

Calling the preliminary results "sheer falsifications" Navalny demanded the annulment of "off-site" elections, in which voters are allowed to vote at home, without having to come to polling stations. "We also demand a second round of voting for the election," he said.

Navalny can ask for a re-count but there is little chance he will get a run-off. Putin can rest assured that his man will retain the powerful post of Moscow mayor.

Read more: What's behind conviction of Navalny?

But the opposition are taking heart from Navalyny's strong showing.

As Ksenya Sobchak, once Russia's "Paris Hilton" and now a vocal member of the opposition tweeted: "Now, Alexey is a politician of federal standing, and prison is unthinkable."

Up to now, Navalyny was known mainly in Moscow and St. Petersburg as a crusader against government corruption, calling out politicians for illegal behavior. He was a leader of the 2012 street demonstrations in Moscow, motivating educated, middle-class young people in Russia's big cities with blogs and Tweets.

The Kremlin's game with Alexei Navalny

Kremlinologist Olga Kryshtanovskaya, in post-election Tweet, said "Navalny's high results in the election is directly connected to his activity in the social media."

In a striking political anomaly, the 37-year-old Navalny ran for mayor as a convicted man, currently on bail after being sentenced to five years in prison for embezzlement. He claims the charges were politically inspired to sideline him from politics and is appealing the sentence.

Before the mayoral vote some observers predicted that, if Navalny's supporters felt the election had been stolen, they would turn out again for street protests. A demonstration was planned in advance for Monday evening.

But some Kremlin opponents don't sound that angry; they're taking heart from the vote totals.

In another Tweet Ksenya Sobchak said "It was understood right from the beginning that they would do absolutely everything to avoid a second round, isn't that true? But the fact that Navalyny got more than 27% -- that's cool!"

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