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Russians In Eastern City Protest Attempt To End Elections

ANGARSK, Russia -- Some 2,000 people have protested in the eastern Russian city of Angarsk against a proposal to change the selection of the mayor from a popular vote to political appointment, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The change from elections to the appointment of mayors was suggested by United Russia, the country's ruling political party, which observers say fears that a member of the local Communist Party will become mayor if elections are held in October.

But a United Russia spokesperson says the motive for the change is cost-saving by not holding elections. Furthermore, the party argues, the government of the region will be "more professional, effective, and less politicized."

Citizens of Angarsk do not believe United Russia's claims. At the protest -- which was organized by the local Communist Party chapter -- residents gathered signatures against the amendment that would end elections.

They plan to give the document to the head of the regional Duma at a meeting on July 12, when a decision on the amendment is due to be made.

Local Communist Party leader Sergei Brenuk says United Russia is planning a protest for July 9 in response.

The local administration has also green-lighted a United Russia demonstration for July 12. The Communists' application to stage a demonstration was denied.

Angarsk, a city of some 262,000 people, is located in Irkutsk Oblast and is about 5,150 kilometers from Moscow.