Russian 4th largest city scraps direct mayoral elections

Russian 4th largest city scraps direct mayoral elections
The city of Ekaterinburg in Russia’s Urals has scrapped direct mayoral elections prompting mass protests. Now instead of a popular vote, the mayor in the fourth largest Russian city will be elected by the city council members.

The lawmakers of Sverdlovsk region (where Ekaterinburg is located) voted by 42-4 to abolish direct elections on Tuesday.  The city is a manufacturing center of the country with 1.5 million population.

Under the new legislation, the members of the local council will choose the city mayor from a list of qualified candidates that will be selected by a special commission. The bill was introduced by Governor Evgeniy Kuyvashev in late March. Until the adoption of the amendment, fresh elections in the city were to be held in September.

Commenting on the new law, incumbent city mayor Evgeny Roizman said that he would not seek an additional calling the introduced system “not an election, this is an appointment.” “I can recognize the power of my voters. But I just do not want to recognize anyone's authority over me,” the politician told Interfax.

On Monday, some 1,700 protesters gathered in the city center protesting the legislation, according to the figures from the city council. The demonstrators also demanded the regional governor to resign. “We need a mayor, not a puppet”, “Our choice is our right,” banners held by the demonstrators said.

In the meantime, the Kremlin said that it will not interfere in the regional electoral process. “This is fully and entirely a matter of the local Legislative Assembly, that’s why we can neither meddle nor comment,” Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday. 

Ekaterinburg has joined the majority of Russian cities which abolished direct mayoral elections. Less than a dozen, including Moscow and St. Petersburg, still hold the popular vote.

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