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Moscow City Duma Confirms Putin's Aide As New Mayor


Moscow's new mayor Sergei Sobyanin

Moscow's new mayor Sergei Sobyanin

The Moscow City Duma voted overwhelming to approve the appointment of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's chief of staff as the new mayor of Moscow.

Fifty-two-year-old Sergei Sobyanin replaces Yury Luzhkov, who was sacked from the mayor's post last month by President Dmitry Medvedev in a bitter public battle.

He is due to be formally inaugurated in a ceremony late on October 21.

The vote was widely considered a formality because deputies from Putin's United Russia Party hold 32 of the city Duma's 35 seats. All 32 of those United Russia Party deputies supported Sobyanin's candidacy. Three Communist lawmakers -- who represent the only opposition to the Kremlin-backed United Russia Party -- voted against Sobyanin's appointment.

While Luzhkov often clashed with the Kremlin during his 18 years in office, Sobyanin is seen as being very close to Putin.

The Kremlin accused Luzhkov of corruption that included, among other things, the channeling of lucrative contracts to a construction company owned by his billionaire wife.

Sobyanin told the city Duma that he will fight corruption and bring transparency to the management of Moscow.

"I am deeply convinced that corruption and bureaucracy can devalue many or even all the competitive advantages of Moscow," Sobyanin said. "Obviously, the city needs a more open and effective management system."

City Bureaucracy Review


Sobyanin signaled that he intends to redistribute business away from what remains of Luzhkov's vast financial machine -- promising to immediately carry out a review of city bureaucrats and municipal institutions.

Sobyanin also promised he would give civil society a stronger voice in the way Moscow is administered.

But many in Russia think Sobyanin's loyalties to Putin are the real reason he was appointed and approved as the new Moscow mayor.

Political analyst Kirill Rogov alleges, "Sobyanin will carefully carry out Putin's orders to the last letter."

Rogov says Sobyanin's overriding task will be to deliver Moscow's vote to the Kremlin-chosen candidate in the presidential election of 2012. Medvedev and Putin have said they will agree on which of them will run for the presidency, but most observers think Putin plans to run for the office.

Rogov explains that Sobyanin is aligned with a group of business oligarchs and lesser tycoons who have prospered under Putin's political protection. Those business elites sometimes oppose the hard-line group of "siloviki" -- or strongmen -- from the military and security services who have been appointed to top positions by Putin.

Rogov suggests Sobyanin can help Putin preserve his personal power by balancing the influence of rival political clans that are locked in that hidden power struggle.
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