Managing Russia’s Mayors

The whittling away of the democratic process across Russia’s expansive regions has been a source of concern since gubernational elections were abolished in 2004.  The FT has a look at how things are operating on a regional basis in the run-up to the December election.  Will the fate of Roman Grebennikov, ex-mayor of Volgograd, be shared by other unfortunate politicians?

Now, as United Russia prepares for parliamentary elections in December, regional leaders are anxious to get rid of mayors such as Mr Grebennikov, who they believe threaten their electoral prospects, and replace them with city managers.

Mr Grebennikov is the third mayor to be dismissed across the Volgograd region in 18 months. In the past year, near identical histories have played out in other cities – all ending with the mayors’ dismissal.

Political analysts read the firings as attempts by United Russia to improve its approval ratings, which have fallen below 50 per cent nationally. In many cases, however, the infighting has had the opposite effect, raising fears that mayoral elections will be done away with altogether.

Amid the kerfuffle, Mr Grebennikov’s case stands out because of what it means for the future of free mayoral elections – one of the only remaining contests after gubernatorial elections were eliminated in 2004. A further clampdown on elections could threaten political stability, says Nikolai Petrov, an analyst at the Carnegie Centre in Moscow.
“[Taking away elections] is in United Russia’s interest. It is not in the interest of the whole system … The situation in Volgograd for instance looks very, very unstable,” he says.