‘Like Stalin’: Greens-led Yarra Council fails to elect mayor for third time

The Greens-led Yarra Council has been unable to elect a mayor for a third time on Tuesday evening, leaving the municipality trapped in a deadlock over its leader.

Neither incumbent Gabrielle de Vietri nor independent councillor Claudia Nguyen secured a majority vote in the inner-city council, the only one in the country with a Greens majority.

Yarra mayor Gabrielle de Vietri has been unable to secure a majority for a second term.Credit:Eddie Jim

The stalemate led socialist councillor Stephen Jolly to compare the situation to Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union, claiming the Greens – who have temporarily lost their majority as councillor Anab Mohamud takes leave amid assault allegations – could continue to delay the vote.

The council, which takes in suburbs including Richmond, Collingwood and Fitzroy, will meet at 8pm on Thursday for a fourth attempt at electing a mayor.

Chief executive Vijaya Vaidyanath told the meeting that while the council could legally postpone the vote indefinitely, there were issues around the “optics and perceptions” of the council.

Previous arrangements in Victoria where a stalemate was broken by drawing names out of a hat were amended last year so that votes must be repeated until a candidate receives majority support.

Inner-city Yarra council includes the suburbs of Collingwood (pictured), Richmond and Fiztroy.Credit:Joe Armao

A split along party lines has plagued Yarra since Cr de Vietri became the first Greens mayor just over a year ago.

To become mayor, a candidate must receive five councillors’ votes. Cr Mohamud’s absence has reduced the council to four Greens and four independents.

The four independents, including Cr Nguyen, Cr Jolly, Herschel Landes and Bridgid O’Brien, have refused to support a second term for Cr de Vietri since the first vote was held last Monday. A second meeting the next day was also unable to select a mayor.

Equally, the Greens have only nominated Cr de Vietri as their candidate.

Greens councillor Edward Crossland started Tuesday’s meeting by requesting a two-day delay on the vote because “negotiations are ongoing”.

Cr Jolly objected to the move, questioning what would happen if no vote occurred.

“Otherwise the majority faction for example could just indefinitely do what Cr Crossland is suggesting and just put off the mayor’s vote indefinitely, like Joseph Stalin put off a fair election in Russia for a million years,” he said.

“I’m not comparing Cr Crossland to Joseph Stalin, it’s just an analogy. Surely we have to have a mayor’s vote, and if that fails, if anyone fails to get five votes, then for sure we have to postpone unfortunately.”

Socialist councillor Stephen Jolly voiced displeasure at the Greens’ attempt to delay Tuesday’s vote.Credit:Luis Ascui

The Socialist councillor then warned he had arranged a community meeting at a Richmond pub for the new meeting time of 8pm Thursday.

“Maybe eight o’clock, but there will be a lot of people watching from my laptop in the pub,” Cr Jolly said.

Cr Landes was on leave from Tuesday’s meeting because he was on a fishing trip.

Cr de Vietri said she and her party were committed to solving the impasse as soon as possible.

“There is no intention from any one of the councillors present here today or absent to prolong this process more than is necessary,” she said.

Yarra is waiting on a Supreme Court judgment over whether Cr Mohamud is eligible to sit on council while two separate criminal charges against her are active in court.

The Greens councillor is accused of launching a homophobic tirade outside a gay club in South Yarra in April, allegedly exclaiming “Allahu Akbar” and vowing to “make sure all these faggots die” after sustaining facial injuries.

She has been on medical leave since July.

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