Sunday, March 22, 2009

All Politics is Local

While national votes receive more public attention, the selection of representatives for local offices often has significant policy repercussions. Not only do local politicians make important decisions (e.g., in some post-Soviet states local officials make land allocation decisions), but local office can provide a staging ground for nationwide campaigns.

Several weeks ago, many Russian regions held local elections, and United Russia performed well in these votes amid allegations of fraud. Some commentaries suggested that the party-of-power's strength might be waning in some areas, however. Yesterday, President Medvedev replaced the governor of Murmansk; although the governor is a member of United Russia, he supported an independent candidate for mayor. In the south, the mayoral election in Sochi has received attention due to the identity of the participants and the importance of the city as host to the upcoming Olympic Games.

In Armenia, defeated presidential candidate (and former president) Levon Ter-Petrossian plans to run for mayor of Yerevan (also see Eurasianet's story). The mayoral post in the capital city is important symbolically and substantively. Because Ter-Petrossian's presidential loss was accompanied by protests and violence, the May 31 showdown is likely to produce high drama.

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