Initial results suggest a pro-Kremlin mayor has been overwhelmingly re-elected by voters in the Russian city of Sochi.
It is the most prominent election in the country since President Dmitry Medvedev came to power last year, and many are seeing it as a test of his committment to democracy. With the majority of votes counted, current mayor Anatoly Pakhamov of the United Russia Party held four-fifths of the total electorate. According to official figures, turnout stood at around 38 percent. The main opposition candidate Boris Nemtsov, a former Deputy Prime Minister who is now a prominent Kremlin critic, said the campaign was lopsided and voting was rigged. He reportedly plans to challenge the result in court. But the head of the city election commission rejected the claims, and said the opposition was complaining to divert attention away from its own failures. The job is important because the Black Sea resort will host the Winter Olympics in 2014, a pet project of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The mayor has to manage the preparations and will oversee an estimated investment of nine billion euros in run up to the event.