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Tomorrow, Moscow elects a new mayor. Incumbent Sergei Sobjanin has made the public space more Western. But protests are still undesirable.

Russia: West, only without democracy

Tomorrow, Moscow elects a new mayor. Incumbent Sergei Sobjanin has made the public space more Western. But protests are still undesirable.

Russia: West, only without democracy
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  • Page 2 — "After all, even in Singapore streets are Beautiful"
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    There was a time when Moscow shunned Gorky Park. With potholes, dilapidated remnants of an amusement park still opened under Stalin and shabby stalls, he was long regarded as a symbol of post-Soviet decay. But in meantime park has become a hotspot: young Moscow rollers on inline skates across waterfront, drink ir skinny latte macchiato on park benches or circles in pedal boats on small excavator pond. Culture lovers walk through "garage", a centre for contemporary art designed by Dutch star architect Rem Koolhaas. In evening Wummert bass over perfectly trimmed lawn and colourful flower beds.

    From blot to new hipster Mecca: it is almost as if wind of change is coming back through park on right bank of Moscow, which German soft rocker Scorpions 1990 made famous: "I follow Moskva/down to Gorky Park/listening to wind of change." For Moscow city administration, Gorky Park is emblematic of development of largest city in Europe with 12 million inhabitants: More hip, sporty, safer and greener Moscow has become in recent years. So at least many election posters want to believe that streets of Russian capital are lined up a few days before mayoral elections on 9 September.

    "Moscow needs your voice" © Simone Brunner

    The Kremlin loyal incumbent Sergei Sobjanin does not have to worry about his re-election – which, of course, is due to fact that all opposition candidates have already been screened in advance. The electoral law prescribes candidate to collect a minimum number of signatures from local deputies, under which Kremlin party states some Russia's tone. A hurdle in which even most prospective against candidates Dmitry Gudkov and Ilya Yashin, supporters of well-known opposition Alexei Navalny, have failed. This leaves four system-conforming candidates who compete against Sobjanin on Sunday. According to State Survey Institute VCIOM, incumbent is 65 percent of vote.

    Alexander Klimov makes a voluntary election campaign for incumbent. © Simone Brunner

    So campaign makes impression of a well-oiled PR machine. Bicycle brigades cycle with flags through city, which says: "Sobjanin is my mayor!" On screens in Moscow Metro is advertised for leisure program in newly renovated parks. In social media, under hashtag zaSobyanina has been making moods for weeks for 60-year-old "city Manager". In absence of free and fair elections, it will probably be task of electoral campaign to achieve at least a passable turnout in order not to question legitimacy of re-election – similar to presidential elections in March this year.

    Ekaterina Korshunova is also involved as a volunteer for incumbent. © Simone Brunner

    Also in election campaign staff in a generously glazed "digital business hub" at Moscow Garden Ring, achievements of Sobjaninschen city policy will be achieved through declined. Almost 11,000 volunteers are supposed to make customer of beautiful new quality of life of Moscow among electorate. A clock counts down countdown to election Day, young volunteers fläzen on colourful bean bags and tap into ir laptops. Like Ekaterina Korshunova. "If I compare Moscow today with Moscow of my youth, n this is a hundred to one," says 26-year-old PR expert. "Moscow has become cleaner, safer and more interesting." The 20-year-old student Alexander Klimov first comes to mind Moscow Central Ring, a new train route that connects outer Moscow metro stations since 2016. "This has improved lives of millions of moscows," he says. "I myself am refore 20 minutes faster at university."

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