Council of Europe urges Russia to give regions greater say

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The Council of Europe urged Russia Thursday to reintroduce direct elections for regional governors and retract a law revoking mayors, a month after the Kremlin fired Moscow's mayor in a spat.

In a text adopted by Europe's top rights group -- whose membership includes Russia -- the council called on Russia for judicial guarantees against excessive control of local authorities by the state.

The council's demands come just a week after Kremlin-picked Sergei Sobyanin was sworn in as Moscow's mayor, replacing flamboyant city strongman Yuri Luzhkov who was fired by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

The mayor of Moscow -- like regional governors in Russia -- is nominated by the president and then confirmed by parliament, a system that replaced direct elections in 2004.

Among other recommendations, the council also called on Russia make it easier for new parties to register locally and regionally, allow independent candidates to run and continue efforts to improve power sharing between federal, regional and local authorities.

© 2010 AFP

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