firing a mayor, part 2: still, only in Russia.

Yuri Luzhkov

Image via Wikipedia

On the way to work on Monday I listened to a report on NPR about the sacking of the Mayor of Moscow, Russia, by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Where I’m from, mayors are independently elected officials, so it struck me as similar to President Obama firing Mayor Bloomberg of New York.

Apparently, the Mayor in question–Yury Luzhkov–is considered to be one of Medvedev’s rivals for 2012 (not just a presidential election in our next of the woods, apparently).  Firing him is the Kremlin’s way of removing a major rival before the 2012 elections.  Luzhov, who has been mayor since 1992, came to power under Boris Yeltsin.  Predicatably, Luzhov was not happy about being fired.

“In our country the fear of expressing your view has existed since 1937,” Luzhkov said, referring to the peak of the repression and Great Terror under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

“If our leadership merely supports this fear with its statements… then it is easy to go to a situation where there is just one leader in the country whose words are written in granite and who must be followed unquestionably.”

“How does this stand with your calls for ‘development of democracy’?” he asked the president.

Not that anyone really thinks of Russia of being a “lighthouse on the hill” for democracy, but still… Luzhkov said he believed he was fired because he had sought greater democracy, calling for “reinstalling direct elections for regional leaders which were scrapped in 2004 in favour of an effective direct appointment by the Kremlin.

Medvedev brushed off the criticism. And then he appointed a new mayor of Moscow.

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