Russia to Abolish Mayoral and City Duma Elections

December 11, 2013
A banner that says "Putin is afraid of Navalny" on a street in Kirov, July 18, 2013. | Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

This summer, the biggest story in Russia was that, for the first time in recent memory, a serious opposition candidate, Alexei Navalny, could win an important election. Navalny was running for Moscow’s mayor against President Putin’s favored candidate, Sergei Sobyanin.

Despite being arrested, tried and convicted for fraud, and then released, Navalny still received a much larger percentage of the vote than many expected, despite complaints from the opposition and many election monitors that the race was rigged.

It appears that the election cycle has rattled Russia’s President. According to TV Rain, there will be no more mayoral elections in Russia. Instead, mayors will be selected by the heads of regions, who are directly elected. It should be noted that this story has not been carried by other news agencies yet. — Ed.

UPDATE: Putin has given his state-of-the-nation speech and did not mention mayoral elections. See our coverage here. — Ed.

According to a source, heads of regions, who will be elected in direct elections, will appoint mayors.

President Vladimir Putin is expected to announce this on 12 December during his address to the Federal Assembly.

The source noted that the main theme of the president’s address will be local self-governance.

“The main innovation is the change of the vertikal [presidential vertical command structure] locally, in order to avoid conflicts as in Astrakhan or Yaroslavl,” the source explained.

In a conversation with TV Rain, presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov did not confirm or deny this information.

Furthermore, the unified city legislative bodies (legislative assemblies) will also cease to exist. Under the new system, local representative democracy will be reduced to elections of the heads of regions and regional deputies.

On 9 December, the newspaper Vedomosti wrote that the United Russia [political party] is preparing proposals for a new procedure for nominating candidates for mayors of cities and heads of regions from the party.

The current Constitution of Russia does not regulate the procedure for election of heads of regions and mayors. Direct elections of governors were held in the regions of Russia from 1996 until 2004, when they were abolished. A federal law restoring direct elections in a curtailed form (with the municipal filters) was passed only in 2012. [The “filter” is the requirement to gather a requisite number of signatures of existing deputies in order to get on the ballot – Ed.].

In many Russian cities, there exists the post of appointed city manager, which was introduced in 2006. In some cases, the introduction of this post was accompanied by abolishing of the post of mayor.