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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mayaoral Elections Backed in Chamber

A senior Public Chamber official is lashing out at Kremlin-backed efforts to eliminate mayoral elections, saying that would violate the Constitution and squash development of a free society.

In a draft of his report on Russian political life, Vyacheslav Glazychev, head of the chamber's panel on self-government, takes aim at talk of letting regional bosses appoint mayors and bemoans the continuing loss of local power.

Kremlin officials and loyal State Duma lieutenants have long discussed extending the so-called power vertical to the municipal level, which would eliminate one of the last remaining vestiges of self-government in the country.

A law that went into effect earlier this year takes away significant power from local governments to shape their own economic future.

In his report, Glazychev analyzes the law's effects in 46 regions, noting governors have used regional legislatures to strip localities of their town status.

Without town status, communities have no power over their budgets. The report proposes that towns be permitted to decide their own status. Roughly half of the country's regions are allowed to postpone implementation of the law until 2009.

Excerpts of Glazychev's report appeared Monday in Kommersant. The full report will be reviewed by the Public Chamber at a Sept. 30 plenary session.

In the report, Glazychev, an architect and publisher, cites the Constitution to argue for free elections of mayors.

While federal authorities and governors have argued that free mayoral elections often lead to crooked or incompetent local leaders, the Constitution nonetheless calls on the people to elect their own local representatives and should not be violated in the name of efficacy, Glazychev writes. Efforts targeting mayoral elections, he adds, "carry a genuine threat for the country's development." Glazychev could not be reached for comment Monday.

Sergei Miroshnikov, head of the Ministry of Regional Development's department for federal relations and local self-government, dismissed Glazychev's report. "There was an attempt at municipal reform based on democratic principles in 1995, and it failed to divide powers between local and non-local authorities," he said.

Vladimir Rimsky, an Indem think tank analyst, and Ilya Trunin of the Institute of Economy in Transition, said sapping localities of their power undermines the development of a free society.

Alluding to the elimination of gubernatorial elections last year, Trunin observed that municipal government is "the only level of government where citizens can still participate directly."