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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife

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Navalny supporters holding banners bearing his name.



MOSCOW/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)-- Tensions are rising in Moscow after an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed a narrow victory in Sunday's mayoral race, while a leading opposition candidate demanded a second election round for the Russian capital's top job.

The 55-year-old Sergei Sobyanin , a former chief of staff of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said he is convinced he won Moscow's mayoral election with about 51 percent of the vote.

Under current regulations, that is just enough to claim outright victory. The election commission said there was no fraud, and officials ruled out a second voting round.

Yet the mayor's younger challenger, the 37-year-old opposition leader Alexei Navalny, has questioned the official results. His campaign team said the Kremlin-backed mayor received just 46 percent of the vote, not enough to avoid a run-off.

Navalny warned that the political battle has just begun in this city of more than 11 million people.

KREMLIN CRITICIZED

He said, "the campaign will now continue to work" as "an important task is to ensure that no votes are stolen."

Navalny told supporters and journalists that "experience shows what can happen."

He believes "Mayor Sobyanin and his main supporter President Putin at this moment are busy deciding if they will conduct a relatively fair vote and go to the second round or not."

However, "our team will give these leaders more food for thought so that they understand that they cannot manipulate the vote", Navalny added.

MORE TROUBLES 

This isn't Navalny's only challenge. The charismatic opposition leader also faces five years imprisonment on what he calls "political charges" of theft.

Election observers acknowledged that United Russia, which dominates politics nationwide, still won most of the more than 7,000 regional and local elections held across Russia on Sunday.

Russia’s opposition had more success in the mayoral race for the big Urals Mountains city of Yekaterinburg, where Kremlin critic Yevgeny Roizman of the Civic Platform party beat the ruling party rival, Yakob Silin.

Yet, at least some Moscow residents believe that the better than-expected support for the opposition in Russia's capital poses a potential political threat to the Kremlin.

(BosNewsLife's NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key general news developments from especially, but not limited to, (former) Communist countries and other autocratic states impacting the Church and/or other compassionate professionals).

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