Election monitors, however, remain critical of the advantages that members of the establishment are awarded long before voting day. As the incumbent, Sobyanin basked in lavish television coverage, which highlighted how he was improving the city. Navalny spent much of the summer distracted by his trial, making frequent trips on the overnight train back and forth between Moscow and Kirov, where he was in court two or three days a week.
Sobyanin insisted that the election had been fair. “We passed the election transparency and fairness exam,” he told supporters. “We did everything in our power to help candidates register and did the utmost to prevent vote falsification.”
Navalny supporter Lyubov Tsulayeva, a 48-year-old veterinarian, stood by herself in the crowd, a pleased expression on her face. The votes for Navalny, she said, meant people were finally standing up and demanding better government.
“It’s hard to live like this,” she said. “I’m tired of the lies. There are lies everywhere.”
The authorities have been promising better pay for teachers, doctors and others who earn government salaries, but nothing happens, she said. Her daughter, an eye doctor, makes the equivalent of $600 a month. “She graduated from medical school, and she’s paid like a street cleaner,” Tsulayeva said.
“All we hear is lies,” she said, “so how can I believe the election results? We need to change everything. We need to change from the very top.”
Darkness was falling. The water in the canal along the island called Bolotnaya sparkled under the streetlights. Tsulayeva was tired after a long day of work, but she lingered, listening to the last of the speeches.
“I knew I had to be here,” she said.