Democratic changes vital for Russia’s future: Gorbachev

March 5th, 2008 - 12:06 am ICT by admin  

RIA Novosti
Moscow, March 4 (RIA Novosti) Changes in Russia’s electoral system and democratic reforms are vital for the country’s development, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has said. His comments came in the wake of Kremlin-backed Dmitry Medvedev’s landslide victory in Sunday’s presidential elections that were marred by criticisms from opposition leaders and the Western monitors.

In an article published Tuesday in the Rossiiskaya Gazeta government daily, Gorbachev said direct gubernatorial elections, abolished by President Vladimir Putin in 2005, should be reinstated, as should “mixed” elections to parliament, during which half of the State Duma’s (lower house of parliament) members were elected in single-member constituencies and the other half by “party list” voting.

“The outcome of (Sunday’s) election was predetermined by the popularity of Vladimir Putin, who backed Dmitry Medvedev and agreed to be premier if he won the elections. A lot of people were critical about this situation,” Gorbachev said.

The election-monitoring arm of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation (OSCE) boycotted the polls over restrictions it said were imposed by Russia.

The head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s (PACE) monitoring group, Andreas Gross, has also said Sunday’s vote was a “reflection of the will of the electorate, whose democratic potential unfortunately has not been tapped”.

Gross said unequal access to media put into question the overall fairness of the vote, adding the election “repeats most of the flaws seen in the parliamentary elections last December”.

Echoing the comments, Gorbachev said voters had had no chance to compare candidates’ programmes due to unequal media access and coverage.

Gorbachev said “the choice of contenders - which included the Communist Party leader, a clownish ultranationalist politician, and the little known leader of a tiny Democratic Party - left much to be desired”.

“People went to polls because they trusted Putin.”

Gorbachev, who presided over the start of perestroika and glasnost in the erstwhile Soviet Union, hailed Medvedev and Putin’s focus on innovation, high technology and manufacturing as economic development priorities, but said those goals were easier to achieve in a democratic society.

The Medvedev-Putin “tandem”, he said, should drop the “power vertical”, Putin’s term for his policy of consolidating power in the Kremlin, as it could prove harmful for the country’s further growth.
RIA Novosti

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