The War against Russia’s Mayors
Last week independent candidate Sergei Subbotin crushed his opponent from Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, by a margin of nearly 2:1, and seized the mayoralty of the frozen far-northern city of Murmansk. In perhaps history’s most egregious instance of hypocrisy, United Russia (itself perhaps the most spectacularly corrupt political party in world history) accused Subbotin of rigging the election with the complicity of the regional governor. United Russia also lost a mayoral race in the central Russian city of Smolensk.
Some in the idiotic Russophile set may attempt to claim this means Russia isn’t a dicatorship but has real elections. Dream on, morons. Subbotin was quoted as saying: “I’m a supporter of Vladimir Putin.”
Still, his victory was a bitter humiliation for the party of power, and so it could hardly come as any surprise to faithful readers of this blog, then, to learn that the Kremlin immediately proposed allowing regional governors, who are all directly appointed by the Kremlin, to fire local mayors.
Such a move will come in quite handy, of course, if as we previously reported Boris Nemtsov carries through on his plan to challenge for the mayorality of Sochi. It would certainly be less messy for the Kremlin to be able to simply direct its handpicked local governor to fire Nemstov for some trifle rather than to have to shoot him down like Stanislav Markelov and Anna Politkovskaya.
The Moscow Times reported: “Public Chamber member Vyacheslav Glazychev, however, said the only purpose of the bill is to ‘bring in harsh subjection of mayors to governors’ who are controlled by the Kremlin. ‘There is no other meaning to this bill,’ Glazychev said.”
The Kremlin’s paranoia is not surprising. Russia’s industrial output was over 13% lower in February 2009 than it had been in February 2008, the second-largest contraction since such records started being kept seven years ago. Russia faces a massive recession accompanied by runaway inflation and unemployment, a perfect storm of economic calamity, and the Kremlin has to realize that its catastrophic failure will embolden its critics. It must be terrified to see tangible evidence of its weakness displayed at the polling place for all to see.
And the proof of how very real that terror is can be seen in the Kremlin’s need to control even relatively insignificant officials in local government. Who’s next on the Kremlin’s hit list? The PTA?