Lawmakers from pro-Kremlin parties United Russia and LDPR have submitted to the State Duma a bill abolishing popular elections of mayors and city councils in major cities. Analysts said the legislation represents an attempt to increase the dependence of municipal authorities on the Kremlin and effectively liquidate their self-government. Some observers also interpreted the proposed measure as part of a Kremlin effort to consolidate power in reaction to the political crisis in neighboring Ukraine. The reform would apply to 67 large cities, including 56 regional capitals. The mayors of affected cities would be elected by city councils from among their members, while the city councils would consist of deputies delegated by newly created assemblies of city districts. City governments would be headed by city managers — executives appointed by commissions, half of which would be chosen by governors and the other half by city councils.
The bill’s sponsors argued that the bill would help fulfill an order by President Vladimir Putin to establish closer links between the authorities and population by creating district assemblies. “We can decrease the number of voters represented by a single deputy,” United Russia Deputy Vyacheslav Timchenko told Kommersant.
But Stanislav Belkovsky, head of the National Strategy Institute think tank, said by phone that he did not see a rational justification for the move because the Kremlin already controlled municipal authorities by manipulating mayoral elections.
“Putin has gone crazy. It is a kick in the teeth of the Russian people,” he said, referring to the plan to abolish popular elections of mayors and city councils. “The people will tolerate [such policies] but only up to a certain point.”