The Kremlin-backed mayor of Moscow Sergei Sobyanin Wednesday put his job on the line by calling snap elections two years before his mandate expires, in an apparent bid to outmanoeuvre the opposition after protests rocked the Russian capital. Sobyanin told President Vladimir Putin he was resigning but would himself stand in the elections which would be expected to take place on September 8 when other local polls are held nationwide. The election could set up an intriguing clash between Sobyanin, a technocratic stalwart of the ruling United Russia party, and virulently anti-Kremlin figures like the protest leader and anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny.
Putin accepted his resignation but said that Sobyanin, who took over from former long-serving Moscow strongman Yuri Luzhkov in 2010, should serve as acting mayor until the elections take place. “We have been working together for a long time and I know your capacities,” Putin told Sobyanin, Russian news agencies reported. “I wish you success.”
Sobyanin’s move appears to be a bid to prove he and the authorities enjoy popular support in the Russian capital even after the city was the focal point of the unprecedented anti-Putin protests in the winter of 2011-2012. The mayor has sought to build up his support base with projects to make life in the overpopulated capital more palatable by improving sidewalks, sprucing up city parks and introducing innovative cultural projects.