Observers say the democratic credentials of the Russian President are being put to the test today as the city of Sochi votes for a new mayor.
The Black Sea resort is the venue for the 2014 Winter Olympics, and opposition parties accuse the Kremlin of a dirty tricks campaign. Analysts say the stakes are high, as the bid for the games was a pet project of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Nikolay Petrov, an analyst at the Carnegie Centre in Moscow, said: “Due to the fact that the 2014 Winter Olympic Games will take place in Sochi, there is huge money that should be spent, regardless of the economic crisis … That’s why I would say that by no means it’s possible – and it could be possible – to imagine that the Kremlin will let anybody else except for the candidate backed by him to become the mayor of Sochi.” One of the main opposition candidates is promising to revise the whole concept of the Sochi games if he wins. That would mean that large construction projects already planned could be refused and some events could be organised outside of Sochi. Observers say that would create a headache for the Kremlin, but it denies the elections are not free and fair.