Russian mayor urges boycott of upcoming presidential election


In Russia, where all governors and mayors are either Kremlin nominees or hail from Kremlin-friendly parties, Yevgeny Roizman cuts an odd figure.

The mayor of Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city with 1.4 million people, is the only top regional official to openly criticize President Vladimir Putin. He has also called for a boycott of Sunday’s presidential vote, a move advocated by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is banned from running.

Yet Mr. Roizman still epitomizes the helplessness of Russia’s opposition in the face of Mr. Putin’s well-oiled government machine.

Roizman is an outlier in Putin’s system of government, where every official – from a village chief to the governor – explicitly answers to and serves the Russian president.

While millions of public workers are busy rooting for Putin and urging residents to vote, Roizman has dismissed the presidential vote as sham.

“You can ask anyone and everyone will tell you who is going to win this election. What’s the point in going to vote then?” he told The Associated Press.

But making public statements is the only thing Roizman is free to do. In the president’s “power vertical,” as Putin once named it, if those who oppose him are not already sidelined or jailed, they simply have no executive powers or budgets to take on the Kremlin.

A former convict and leader of a vigilante anti-drug movement, Roizman might seem unelectable. But in his hometown of Yekaterinburg in the Urals, he won a tight mayoral race against a pro-government candidate in 2013.

A visitor to Roizman’s office is immediately struck by the glaring absence of the one requisite symbol of power in Russia: a portrait of Putin. On his first day, Roizman hung a portrait of dissident poet Josef Brodsky. His office is open, and his hour-long interview with the AP was interrupted when a retiree stepped in to complain about his low pension.

When Roizman ran for office, one of his campaign promises was to improve the quality of water in this industrial city. But once elected, Roizman realized he was unable to do that. Read more....