Moscow’s incumbent mayor Sergei Sobyanin cast his own vote in the mayoral elections on Sunday. The Kremlin has always traditionally appointed the mayors of Moscow and St. Petersburg. But political reforms reinstated direct elections in 2012, so this is a chance for the residents of Russia’s wealthiest city to choose from six candidates for the first time in a decade.
The vote is also a gauge of the political mood of the electorate. All eyes are on the charismatic Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who has a five-year sentence hanging over him for theft – charges which he says were politically motivated. Huge support for him would reveal serious opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin among Moscow’s citizens.
Sobyanin is still expected to win, the only question is, by how much?
One Muscovite told euronews, “if the winner gets 60% to 70% of the vote, then it will mean that the overwhelming majority of Muscovites have supported him. If the result appears to be lower, then it will show that the leader has no mass support.”
Another Moscow resident said: “Changes? Salaries should be stable, pensions should be increased, people should have jobs and young mothers should have better opportunities to get places for their children in kindergartens.”
The days when communist candidates – such as Ivan Melnikov – could rely on widespread backing are over.
Political observers say the Kremlin only allowed Navalny to run because they expected him to be humiliated. But some predict that plan might backfire.