You might think 20 years after the demise of the Soviet Union the then-leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, would surely be relegated to the cast of political “has beens”. But even without an active political role, he remains a firm fixture of Russian social life. Increasingly critical of Putin’s ruling style he has often advised him to step down.
euronews’ Moscow correspondent Alexandre Shashkov met him to talk about the latest elections, and recent and yet-to-come social changes.
“The presidential elections are behind us, and now it’s clear that in 2 months Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin will switch places. What do you think of the electoral campaign and the results of these elections?”
“What’s different in these elections from the previous ones, is that during the electoral campaign it became clear that society is emerging from a kind of vegetative state. People are starting to influence the agndas of the Prime Minister, future President, and Duma as well. The questions of serious change of the system, its democratization, and general reforms to make the electoral system better, remain high on the agenda. Because before, and this often angered me, the system got reformed in a way that only made it worse. It rejected the person, and pushed them out of the electoral process. Now it has to be vice versa, the system must be inclusive, and President Medvedev, in his last days in office, proposed a Constitutional Assembly, to correct the current system taking into account recent protests and the demands of the electorate who asked for a better system. I hope this doesn’t just stay a proposition and is followed by results.”
“Do you think Medvedev will succeed, that he will have enough time for these changes?”
“I think not, because we lack any experience in these sorts of changes. We know the Constitution as it is – but how to change it, in what way?.. Well, in what way already becomes clear.
For example we have to bring back the elected regional governors, scrapped by Putin. If the governors are not appointed by the Kremlin, but elected by the people, they won’t leave the authorities be. They will be pushing their point of view. Yes, it will be harder to deal with them, they will become more sure of themselves, will acquire political independence – but, frankly, that’s what we need. People trust us, elect us, but we don’t trust people back to have a say in how to run a country. If people ask for more say, then it’s mature enough to act. And that’s positive change.”
“Do you think Putin as the new president will continue Medvedev’s drive for democratization, to reform the country’s political system?”
“The president-elect – I think we can already call him that – has himself said many times that the issues of electoral process, electoral legislation and, generally, political processes will occupy a large part of his agenda. Well, this is what he states, even if from time to time he says, “Let’s before that do this or that in the economy…”. No, nothing should come before. And the scale of changes that were announced by the president – if this is not just for show, if we are to take him seriously – is such that it will require an enormous effort from the executive and legislative power, from the whole of society.
And, frankly, even if Putin didn’t want to tackle these issues, and wanted to go back to the old ways, he can’t anymore. Moreover, I think soon enough the question of early parliamentary elections will arise because we know in what condition the current one was elected. For us to have an active and effective parliament, we’ve got to have a new parliament.”
“Let’s look back a bit. Medvedev is at the end of his mandate. What can you say about his 4 years in power?”
“Well, generally speaking, I consider Medvedev as a man with perspective and a future role, but he lacked experience and the time to accumulate it. Once he said to me, “Well, I have years ahead of me”. Well, it means he wants to continue with his drive. If this is the case, good for him. But he could have been more useful, and should have acted more decisively, which would have put him in a more prominent position than the one he is in now. He’s nobody to blame for that but himslef, and I hope he learns from that.”
“Amongst the presidential candidates, who do you prefer?”
“Prokhorov – maybe because we’re fed up with all the others. He has fresh ideas, new ways to present his vision—- and a huge experience in business. From this point of view, he’s part of a new generation, and that’s what interests me. But I think he, as we all, has a lot to learn yet, and, more importantly, in reforming our electoral system, we must allow some new faces to emerge. For that we need competition and openness and these are the most important issues now.”
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