Activists in Craigentinny/Duddingston voted by 29 to eight for deselection of SNP group whip Alex Lunn at a branch meeting on Monday.
But after SNP headquarters overruled the move, the other two candidates who were due to stand in the ward alongside Cllr Lunn – branch convener Lee-Anne Menzies and David Manson – resigned. And party headquarters stepped in with two replacement candidates at the last minute.
Members have voiced their dismay on Facebook with one posting: “Three candidates we as a branch had not chosen – so much for local democracy.”
Craigentinny/Duddingston is one of only two wards where the SNP is fielding three candidates.
One insider said that at a “brutal” selection meeting earlier this year, Ms Menzies and Mr Manson had both been selected unopposed while only four out of 24 members present had backed Cllr Lunn.
But party headquarters ruled the meeting void because it was one short of a minimum attendance.
Instead, the would-be candidates were each required to get 20 signatures from branch members and on that basis Cllr Lunn was selected along with Ms Menzies and Mr Manson.
The insider said: “Members who had been at the original meeting were angry. They felt they had been ignored.”
The unhappy activists got enough support to call Monday’s special meeting to deselect Cllr Lunn, and the vote met the required two-thirds majority in favour of deselection.
But under SNP rules such a vote is only advisory – it’s up to the party’s national executive to decide and it told the branch it would not uphold the deselection.
With just two days to go before nominations closed, Ms Menzies and Mr Manson both resigned as candidates.
Replacements Ian Campbell and Mridul Wadhwa are understood to be from Edinburgh but not the ward.
A supporter of Cllr Lunn said many members had boycotted Monday’s meeting. “They have no authority to deselect and they didn’t give any reason, they just said they wanted to deselect him.”
The supporter also dismissed any harm to the party’s campaign in the area. “I don’t see why anyone would care – do you think your average voter cares about this?”
Cllr Lunn declined to comment, as did Ms Menzies. Mr Manson said he had decided not to stand for personal reasons.
An SNP spokesman said: “Alex Lunn was selected as a candidate for the Craigentinny/Duddingston ward under the rules of the party, and his nomination was upheld by the SNP’s national executive committee.”