Lawmakers in Russia's Sverdlovsk region have abolished the direct election of the mayor in the regional capital, Yekaterinburg, a move that has met resistance from the current mayor and protests by residents of Russia's fourth-largest city.
In a 42-4 vote on April 3, the regional legislature passed a bill under which Yekaterinburg's mayor will be chosen by the city council from a list of candidates prepared by a commission.
It was adopted a day after thousands of demonstrators rallied in Yekaterinburg in protest against the legislation, holding signs with slogans such as: "We need a mayor, not a puppet."
Incumbent mayor Yevgeny Roizman blasted the legislation, which was submitted by regional governor Yevgeny Kuvaishev, saying it will be used by the authorities loyal to the Kremlin to "appoint" a pliant mayor.
"[A mayor] who is elected is accountable to those who elected him, while one who was appointed is accountable to the one who appointed him," Roizman, who was elected to a five-year term in 2013, said at the legislative session.
Critics say that President Vladimir Putin has rolled back democracy and tightened Kremlin control over electoral politics during around 18 years as president or prime minister.
Roizman attended the protest on April 2 and said the abolition of direct elections would deal a blow to democracy and hurt the city's interests.
He said in late March that scrapping direct mayoral elections would be "humiliating for Yekaterinburg."
Roizman is one of a very few regional or local officials who have openly criticized Putin and praised opposition leader Aleksei Navalny.
His position is already already largely ceremonial, as most executive powers in Yekaterinburg belong to the head of the city administration, Aleksandr Yakob.