Moscow mayor calls for direct elections of regional governors

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Moscow, Nov 18 (UNI) Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov has called for reinstating the direct elections of regional governors in Russia, as a more democratic method of selecting regional leaders.

''Today the issue should be reviewed. I would support this,'' Mr Luzhkov told Russian state TV.

''Direct elections where several candidates ran for governor were more legitimate,'' the Mayor said.

He said that in 2004 he had backed then President Vladimir Putin's decision to abolish governor elections in favour of presidential nominations, but today he said it would be wise to reinstate them.

Mr Putin's decision fueled Western criticism that Russia was backsliding from democracy.

Recently, Mintimer Shaimiyev, the President of the vast oil-rich Republic of Tatarstan in the Volga River basin, also advocated the return of direct polls in the regions.

Mr Murtaza Rakhimov, his counterpart in the neighbouring south Urals republic of Bashkortostan, another major oil producer in Russia, said Russia effectively ceased to exist as a ''federative state'' since regional elections were abolished and the Kremlin started appointing governors.

The Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov also backed Mr Luzhkov today.

''We have always advocated the direct elections of governors,'' he said describing them as ''truly democratic.'' The ruling United Russia party, which dominates Parliament, has repeatedly rejected appeals to review the decision.

UNI XC SKB CS1848

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