Moscow city council election protests
© Sputnik / Evgeny Odinokov
People gathered in central Moscow to demand that a number of opposition politicians be allowed to run for seats in the city legislature despite being disqualified by the election commission.

The protest rally on Saturday is meant to support a dozen opposition politicians who want to run for the Moscow Duma, the city legislative assembly, in September. The city election commission has since last week disqualified a number of candidates due to paperwork irregularities, and some of them say they were barred from the race illegally under false pretexts.

Police blocked traffic through several streets during the rally and deployed several dozen officers to monitor the situation. Around 12,000 people showed up, according to the Interior Ministry press service.

Moscow city councel election protests
© Sputnik / Evgeny Odinokov
Several smaller protest events against the commission's decisions have been held since last Sunday. The first ended with several dozen people arrested, after they attempted to set up tents in front of the commission building in violation of police instructions not to do so. The others were for the most part orderly.

There are 45 seats in the Moscow City Council, which are filled through a first-past-the-post vote. Getting one's name on the ballot usually requires collecting a certain number of signatures from voters in the constituency that the candidate seeks to represent. The commission may disqualify a candidate if it believes a significant percentage of the signatures submitted are not genuine. The commission said it disqualified 57 people and registered 233 as candidates.

Barred opposition candidates say the signatures they collected were turned down despite being authentic and accuse commission members of abusing their power. They seek to overturn the decisions through a campaign of public pressure, with another rally set for Sunday.