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Russia's message to Putin-Medvedev

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Russia's message to Putin-Medvedev


With United Russia’s support dented in the country’s parliamentary elections, questions are now being asked about whether the Putin-Medvedev partnership has been weakened.

The party’s vote tally was 15 per cent down on the 2007 result – losing its two-thirds constitutional majority but still holding on to a comfortable overall majority.

Putin blamed the financial crisis, but on the streets of Moscow, several people felt it was a clear message to Putin.

One voter said: “Well, they need to make changes and today they say there’s economic modernisation going on in the country. The authorities need to deal with this issue more actively, then there will be better results. The people want changes for us to live better in this country.”

Putin and Medvedev turned towards diversifying the Russian economy, which relies on hydrocarbons for 60 per cent of its exports, and aimed to reduce corruption, widely believed to be among the most serious problems facing the country.

Yana Yakovleva, the chair at the NGO Business Solidarity, said Russia remains a risky place to do business: “Unfortunately, our entire system needs reform, needs economic reforms, but so far we don’t see any of this happening and in as much as the authorities aren’t changing, you can’t expect any new important and much needed reforms.”

The 2011 World Bank report ranks Russia in 120th place out of 183 in terms of difficulties for doing business. That is way behind the former Soviet republics of Georgia, Latvia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

Nikolai Petrov, analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Moscow believes the time for doing nothing has gone.

“I think it’s understood that the three months standing between us and the presidential elections can’t go the same way that the last few months of the Duma campaign went – without some kind of substantial, strong and serious ideas, without mobilising the electorate,” he said. “Putin will have to set some kind of tangible programme ahead of the presidential election and not just come out with generalisations.”

To get an outsider’s perspective on what it all means, Tony Halpin the Moscow correspondent of the British newspaper The Times spoke to euronews from the Russian capital.

Nial O’Reilly, euronews:

United Russia still have a majority in the Duma, but it’s a major setback for Putin and Medvedev, what has gone wrong for them?

Tony Halpin, The Times:

I think what went wrong is that the voters felt they were being taken for granted. Mr Putin and Mr Medvedev announced two months ago in September that they intended to swap jobs and a lot a Russians were I think personally offended that neither man bothered even to consult them before declaring who will be president and who will be prime minister next year


So (the voters) don’t like the double-act? Will (the politicians) take on board this message from the electorate? Can we expect to see a shift in policy or even leadership style.

Tony Halpin, The Times:

I think it’s fair to say that Mr Putin is still the most popular politician in the country but Mr Medvedev, when he takes over prime minister, will have some work to do to convince the Duma that he has the right policies. And he will have to do more active work in presenting his policies because the Duma itself will be a chamber of much more debate and controversy that it has been before


So you would see Putin as still being able to capture the presidency but you would have doubts about Medvedev being the prime minister?

Tony Halpin, The Times:

I think yesterday’s results were part of a pattern which do show, in my opinion, that Mr Putin is becoming increasingly unpopular with Russians and many Russians are actually quite tired of him and don’t look forward to the possibility of 12 more years of him as president. So he has a job to do I think to try to reconnect with Russians in a way that he has done in the past quite successfully. But there is a problem for him that he’s perceived now as a man that has a long track record, perhaps too long, and that Russians may be looking around for somebody new with some fresh ideas to challenge those positions and to challenge him as a leader.


Well they’re now going to have to do deals with other parties in the Duma. How do you see that going?

Tony Halpin, The Times:

United Russia has barely felt the need even to debate most pieces of legislation in the last few years because they had a 2/3 majority, so the opinions of other parties simply didn’t count. That won’t be the case this time around. They’re going to have to argue their case rather more and I suspect that the Communists and Just (Fair) Russia party in particular would be much more vigorous in challenging and contesting their ideas and putting forward their own alternative views. So I think we can expect the Duma to be more lively than it has been in the last four years.


What do we read into the surge in support for the Communists – they seem to have drawn support from different sections of Russian society this time?

Tony Halpin, The Times:

People looked at the list of the parties on the ballot and decided that the Communists are pretty much the only genuine party of opposition. It didn’t necessarily means that people supported the Communists or wanted somehow the Communists to come back to power, but they did want to register their opposition to United Russia and they perceived the other parties, certainly those which had a real chance of getting in the Duma as in some ways being compromised by the Kremlin, or too close in the past to the Kremlin and United Russia views. So I think the Communists were the beneficiaries of a protest vote rather than support for their particular positions.

Every story can be told in many ways: see the perspectives from Euronews journalists in our other language teams.

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