Medvedev’s Swan Song

Special Report: Medvedev’s Swan Song

(The Moscow Times: Vladimir Ryzhkov)

A week ago, I took part in an unprecedented meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev at his residence at Gorki. This was the first time that he met with 10 representatives of the so-called “nonsystemic” parties — those that were denied registration on politically motivated grounds. Four of those present — Parnas co-founder Boris Nemtsov, Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov, Russian People’s Union head Sergei Baburin and myself — had taken part in the street protests on Bolotnaya Ploshchad and Prospekt Akademika Sakharova.

There is no doubt that Medvedev’s decision to meet with opposition leaders and his sincere desire to listen to our demands was a result of the large-scale street protests in December and February. Most significant, Medvedev left the impression that he shared many of the protesters’ views.

Medvedev suggested that he would support a constitutional amendment limiting the president to a total of no more than two terms in office, that he is personally opposed to using a “presidential filter” in gubernatorial elections, that he is not against multiparty political blocs in elections and that he is willing to acknowledge that there are political prisoners in the country — something that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has always denied.

What’s more, Medvedev introduced four bills to the Duma that would bring major changes to political and electoral institutions. The three most important of those bills would ease the rules for registering political parties, return direct gubernatorial elections and introduce new procedures for electing State Duma deputies.

Medvedev is sympathetic toward Russians who have taken part in peaceful protests. Moreover, he considers their actions to be part of a larger pro-democracy movement stretching from North Africa to Eurasia. Medvedev would also like to establish independent public television in the country and to hold more popular referendums on key issues, primarily at the local and regional levels.

Medvedev opposes any attempt to marginalize the mainstream opposition. He agrees with protesters’ claims that the new Duma does not reflect the country’s entire political spectrum. He also said that if they were represented, there would be less cause for protests.

To be sure, there were disappointments, as well.

Read more here.
(From the Moscow Times: Author Vladimir Ryzhkov was a State Duma deputy from 1993 to 2007, hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio and is a co-founder of the opposition Party of People’s Freedom.)