Thousands protest ending mayoral election in Russian city

April 2, 2018

Yekaterinburg mayor Yevgeny Roizman, left, speaks to the crowd during a protest against official plans to cancel direct mayoral elections in Yekaterinburg, Russia, Monday, April 2, 2018. Several thousand people including the incumbent mayor, Yevgeny Roizman, have rallied in Yekaterinburg, Russia's fourth -largest city, to protest official plans to cancel direct mayoral elections. (AP Photo)

YEKATERINBURG, Russia (AP) — Several thousand people rallied Monday in Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city, to protest official plans to cancel direct mayoral elections.

The incumbent mayor, Yevgeny Roizman, attended Monday’s rally in the Ural Mountains city, urging public resistance to the regional legislature’s plan to have the city mayor appointed by the regional legislature. Provincial lawmakers are to consider the move Tuesday.

Roizman, elected in 2013 for five years, said the abolition of direct elections would deal a blow to democracy and hurt the city’s interests.

“We mustn’t give up that right,” he told the crowd. “It’s a matter of our dignity, a matter of preserving the face of Yekaterinburg.”

The 55-year-old Roizman is a rare figure in Russia’s officialdom. He has been the only regional official who dared to openly criticize President Vladimir Putin and praise his most vocal critic, opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Roizman’s job, however, is largely ceremonial and doesn’t involve executive powers.

The rally participants held placards reading, “We want elections” and “We don’t need puppets.”

Anatoly Kostenko, who took part in the rally, said he thinks the plan to end mayoral elections was part of the Kremlin’s efforts to tighten control over Russia’s political scene.

“Finally we have stood up and don’t let them go on,” he said. “The final frontier is the municipal authority.”

Another protester, Maria Khamitova, said that having an elected mayor helped the city achieve relative prosperity.

“That’s why I think that (the direct election) is very important for the residents and we need to elect a mayor,” she said.

Update hourly