The Trouble with Being Elected Mayor in Russia

Evgeny Roizman (right) and Mikhail Prokhorov (left), 24 December 2011, photo by johnnnyick, CC 2.0.

Evgeny Roizman (right) and Mikhail Prokhorov (left), 24 December 2011, photo by johnnnyick, CC 2.0.

Last month's mayoral election in Yekaterinburg resulted in victory for the peculiar and controversial anti-drug activist and former Duma deputy Evgeny Roizman, who took 33.21% of the vote. Following the election, the Yekaterinburg State Duma (in what should have been a routine procedure) officially confirmed Roizman as mayor. Citing technicalities, four city parliament members of the opposition parties A Just Russia and the Party of Pensioners contested the confirmation meeting, also bringing a joint suit to a court in the Leninsky District to challenge the legality of the meeting's quorum procedures. The State Duma's oppositionists claim is that not enough representatives attended at the meeting, and a follow-up gathering was convened immediately afterwards, in violation of the law.

The deputies’ basic allegation is that last month's voting (on offices other than the mayor's seat) was rigged. “We do not dispute that the results of the mayoral elections are correct. The city has an elected mayor,” A Just Russia's Alexandr Burkov explained [ru] to the media earlier this week.

Outside of Moscow, Roizman's campaign was perhaps Russia's most captivating political experiment this year. Running on the ticket of Mikhail Prokhorov's independent party Civil Platform, Roizman brought into the open his vicious rivalry with the local Governor, Evgeny Kuivashev. Given Roizman's hard-fought victory and the context of a still unresolved conflict with Kuivashev and Sverdlovsk's regional authorities, what is the significance of these new procedural hiccups in confirming Yekaterinburg's mayor?

Some welcomed the unceremoniousness of Roizman's confirmation. LiveJournal user teh_nomad [ru] expects a long period of litigation ahead, writing:

Думаю, что в процессе “мэрствования” Ройзмана нас еще ждет очень много процедурных и других бюрократических судов. Ведь так хорошо сейчас звучат новости во всех газетах и по всем каналам о том, что прокуратура считает Ройзмана не легитимным мэром.

I think for Roizman's “mayorization,” we're can look forward to all kinds of procedures and other bureaucratic courts. After all, it's great to hear on the news, read in the newspapers, and see on all the TV channels that the district attorney thinks Roizman is an legitimate mayor.

Several bloggers observed how farcical it is that Yekaterinburg's elections this year, which were arguably fairer than in the past, still resulted in claims of electoral fraud. Reacting to complaints by the opposition, conservative television personality Vladimir Soloviev asked:

So what's worth more? The will of the voters, which led Roizman to victory in the election, or the district attorney's?

Another Twitter user with the suspicious handle @992121 quipped:

I was waiting for when they'd begin to undercut Roizman, and he hasn't even been confirmed to his post as mayor yet! Now this is what I call “political theater”[!]

LiveJournal user Alexandr Rokhmistrov addressed the election in a post titled, “The Opposition's Mayoral Troubles: Navalny Not Elected, and Roizman Deemed Illegitimate.” Waxing philosophical about the ills of entering into Russian politics (particularly mayoral elections), Rokhmistrov opined on the eventual corruption of all politicians, saying that even the most independent-minded opposition candidates eventually become a part of the establishment:

К тому же при высокой должности, искушений много всяких появляется, перед которыми даже закаленному «аппаратному бойцу» устоять трудно. Ну а коли человек, можно сказать прямо с уличного митинга в уютное кабинетное кресло попадает, как тут устоять перед бесчисленными соблазнами, да искушениями.

When in high office, all sorts of temptations appear, before which even the most seasoned “warriors of Beltway” struggle to resist. You can fall straight from the street protest into a comfy office chair, as you try to hold up to all the enticements and temptations.

On October 3, 2013, a Yekaterinburg court affirmed [ru] the legality of the State Duma's session that confirmed Roizman's electoral victory, proving wrong bloggers like teh_nomad, who anticipated a drawn-out legal process.

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