Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Green, local politics or something else?

Perspective, perspective. Is a new mayor a grassroots, environmentalist or an agent of a political insider?

Phillip Pan, Washington Post reporter, repeats the contention, made by Ellen Barry, that local politics can still be competitive in Russia. (However, the disqualification of the candidate Barry used an example makes her argument very questionable -- see the comment added to the original post.)

Russian Voting Tinged With Green

"Environment Outmuscles Kremlin Controls in Mayoral Election

"[I]f the odds were against [Dmitry] Belanovich [left] as he challenged Vladimir Putin's United Russia party, which dominates and often fixes elections in this country, he built his campaign on an issue that seemed to resonate -- environmental protection. And when the votes were counted March 1, he won in a landslide.

"The surprise victory showed that, despite a decade of tightening political controls by the Kremlin, it is still possible to take on Putin's ruling party in a local election and prevail...

"In recent weeks, United Russia's candidates have also lost mayoral contests in the cities of Murmansk and Smolensk, and a volatile race is underway in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, host of the 2014 Winter Olympics... [See Russian mayoral election]

"Belanovich, 34, said his bid to become mayor of this town of 70,000 received no coverage on television or in major newspapers. But by speaking to residents directly and distributing campaign brochures, he won 45 percent of the vote, compared with 27 percent for the second-place United Russia candidate. He attributed his victory to his promise to protect the natural ecology of this rural municipality, which he calls the "lungs of Moscow" because nearly half its territory is covered with forests. He campaigned on pledges to block construction along rivers and a major reservoir, clean up a polluting pig farm and promote agriculture and tourism instead of industry...

"Some environmentalists have hailed Belanovich's election. But others have played down its significance because of Belanovich's ties to Oleg Mitvol, the deputy chief of the federal environmental watchdog agency and a controversial figure in the movement...

"Critics have portrayed Mitvol as a Kremlin attack dog who used the environmental charges to pressure Shell to sell its controlling stake in the project to the state energy giant Gazprom...

"Other activists defended Mitvol, saying he has drawn attention to environmental causes. 'He may not be the most knowledgeable environmentalist, but he has good intentions,' said Ivan Blokov, director of the Russian branch of Greenpeace..."

What You Need to Know -- a study guide for AP Comparative Government and Politics

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