May 25, 2018 / 4:46 PM / 24 days ago

Russian city ditches direct elections after anti-Putin mayor quits

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s fourth largest city abolished direct mayoral elections on Friday and accepted the resignation of its outspoken mayor, bringing an end to Yekaterinburg’s unusual dalliance with the liberal opposition to President Vladimir Putin.

Yevgeny Roizman, who resigned as mayor oF Russia's fourth largest city Yekaterinburg on Tuesday, attends City Day celebrations there on August 19, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/Files

Yevgeny Roizman, an opposition politician who was elected mayor in 2013 after beating a Kremlin-backed opponent at the ballot box, tendered his resignation on Tuesday after regional lawmakers voted to scrap direct elections.

Roizman, 55, who was a rare critic of Putin in a senior regional post in Russia, called the move a betrayal of the interests of Yekaterinburg, 1,500 km (900 miles) east of Moscow, and said he would have no part in it.

On Friday, city lawmakers accepted Roizman’s resignation and officially removed direct elections for the mayoralty, Russian news agencies reported. Mayors will now be selected by local officials from a shortlist drawn up by a special commission.

The electoral reform was proposed by Yevgeny Kuivashev, governor of the Sverdlovsk region where Yekaterinburg is situated. Kuivashev’s allies argued that doing away with elections would save money and streamline decision-making.

As Yekaterinburg mayor, Roizman regularly attended demonstrations organised by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was barred from running in a March presidential election in which Putin cruised to a fresh six-year term.

Roizman was one of a handful of Kremlin critics who won mayoral posts following a series of big opposition demonstrations as Putin campaigned for office in 2012.

Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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