A Counterweight to Fair Elections

Economy begins to crumble.  Population becomes dissatisfied with leadership in light of crumbling economy.  Independent candidates win regional mayoral elections, reflecting shift of public opinion against leadership.  Leadership changes law to give itself the right to dismiss independent candidates.

It sounds like the plot of an Orwellian novel, but this could actually happen in Russia, if the Duma’s reading of a new bill finds approval this week.  From the Moscow Times:

Under the bill, a governor could propose that a mayor in his region be dismissed for failure to fulfill his duties. Grounds for dismissal include serious budget deficits or misuse of budget funds. […]  The bill, to be considered Friday in the Duma, would make it harder for independent candidates to hold onto mayoral posts and would strengthen United Russia’s control over local politics.

In a meeting with regional legislators in Tula last week, Medvedev said the bill would allow deputies to “create a normal, effective vertical of power,” according to comments posted on the Kremlin’s web site. […] Recently, Medvedev has referred to the need to remove “criminal elements” from positions of power in the provinces.

This is a pretty typical argument that governments employ when they want to reduce civil liberties – ‘it’s for your own good!’  But as always, the measure to protect against the ‘criminal’ element permits the authorities to throw the baby out with the bath-water.  Boris Nemtsov’s assertion that free and fair regional elections would be ‘a great sign for the future of Russia’ won’t mean much if free and fair elections are followed by arbitrary removals…