With Yury Luzhkov’s days in office looking increasingly numbered, protestors have moved for calling for his head to demanding a say in who replaces the mayor.
An officially sanctioned demonstration in Moscow on Saturday brought 2,000 people to Bolotnaya Ploshchad – and made it clear that the incoming mayor should not expect an easy ride.
The campaign, led by opposition leaders Boris Nemtsov, Vladimir Ryzhkov and Vladimir Milov, fears Luzhkov’s eventual replacement will simply offer more of the same, since the new mayor will be imposed by the Kremlin.
Ilya Yashin gave both barrels to the authorities, gzt.ru reported. “The next mayor, who you are inventing right now in the Kremlin, will be no better,” he said. “He will be the same crook, redneck. And we will not live better.
“We want to tell you guys in the Kremlin where to stick your appointment. We want to return to public elections!”
Milov’s opening address complained that the new man would have no connection with the city.
“You have probably seen the shortlists of candidates which include the Kremlin’s caretaker and heads of government units who haven’t lived in Moscow for five years,” he said.
“They saw her only from the window of their Mercedes. This is what awaits us, because mayoral elections in our city have been abolished.”
The man at the centre of the storm, Luzkhov himself, is back in the office after a week’s vacation in Austria.
And he is adamant that he won’t step down of his own accord, Interfax reported.
He added that his first day back at work was merely “a start”, the agency reported.
Most observers, however, feel it is more of a finish. The Petersburg-based International Institute of Political Expertise rates Luzhkov’s future as the most precarious of Russia’s political figures.
And there are question marks over the future of several other long-serving officials, Kommersant reported.
Moscow Region’s Boris Gromov drew criticism for his handling of this summer’s fires, while Omsk’s Leonid Polezhayev was taken to court over the mysterious death of conscripts from his patch.
Like Polezhayev, Tomsk’s Viktor Kress is a long-serving governor whose 90s links make him increasingly vulnerable while Tver’s Dmitry Zelenin is expected to struggle.
Recent months have seen a string of long-serving governors leave office as part of the Kremlin’s efforts to revitalise local government. The heads of Novosibirsk, Kaliningrad, Kalmykia, Orenburg and the Yamalo Nenets Autonomous Region have all left this year.