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Feelin(e) sick of Corruption?

January 2016

The bad news is that, despite getting the approval of 91% of the electorate, Barsik will not become mayor of the Russian city of Barnul. The good news is that the job may have proven a touch challenging for Barsik, who is an 19-month-old cat - a Scottish Fold to be precise. Nevertheless the feline candidate's sky-high rating in the polls sends a serious message to local politicians.

Barnul is located in south-central Russia and has a population of just over a million. That million people had become heartily sick of their city administration as one member after another became involved in series of corruption scandals.

'Only mice don't vote for Barsik!' proclaims a poster that Barsik supporters plan to raise in the city centre. Arguably, a cat that is content to be bribed by a tin of Sheba (the top Russian imported cat food) will cost the city less than the last city administrator. He stands accused of costing the city more than 11 million roubles by selling off municipal land cheaply to companies affiliated with his family. This latest scandal is but the last in a series which has rocked Barnul, and forced the locals to seriously consider the feline alternative.

In fact there are a growing number of households in Russia which include a cat as urban Russians have begun to warm to the idea that cats as pets are more suited to urban and apartment living than dogs. And once one has become used to the idea of a cat running the household (what do you mean, 'yours doesn't'?), it is not so large a leap to imagine a cat running a city.

That is certainly the opinion of Russian social media outfit Vkontakte, the organization behind the informal poll which produced Barsik's stellar approval rating. Sadly the result of this poll is in no way binding on the commission which will select the new city administrator. This commission includes the regional governor Alexander Karlin, who admits that, by selecting Barsik the Cat as their preferred candidate, the people of the city are sending a 'definite message' that they are fed up with the quality of the human candidates.

As for Barsik, the cat remains relaxed and 'quietly confident' of the outcome of the poll, according to a recent media 'interview'. In fact Barsik has become something of a celebrity both in Russia and abroad. Mainstream media such as the Guardian Newspaper in Britain and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation have both covered Barnul's mayoral race, the result of which will be known later this month.

Of course, Barsik is not the first cat to get involved in a mayoral race. Perhaps the most famous case is Puss in Boots. Interestingly, both the cat in the Disney movie of that name and Barsik appear to be the same breed a Scottish Fold which breed has not previously been noted for its political ambitions.

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