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Putin identifies political reform guidelines, promises to go ahead with purifying authorities

December 12, 2012, 15:12 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

In his message to the Federal Assembly Russian President Vladimir Putin identified the guidelines for advancing the political reform. He agreed to get back to a mixed system of State Duma elections and suggested discussing the possibility of creating political blocs. He promised that the bodies of state power would continue to be purified and renewed firmly and consistently. Putin suggested restricting the right of top officials and politicians in Russia to own bank accounts abroad, securities and shares.

The president suggested preserving the flat scale of the individuals’ income tax and introducing the tax on luxury.

He agreed with the idea of getting back to a mixed system of State Duma elections – on party tickets and single mandate constituencies. “Many political parties and experts have suggested getting back to the mixed system of State Duma elections. I agree with that,” the head of state said.

Also, he suggested discussing the question restoring to Russian legislation the right to create election blocs. “Let us give thought to this issue. It requires discussion.”

Alongside the return to a mixed system of State Duma elections “all this will make the political system of Russia more open, fair and competitive and give a response to society’s request, to the influx of new leaders, of bright and independent people into politics, into the bodies of power,” the president said.

He also pointed to the need for ensuring equitable access of political parties to the mass media not only during the elections, but on the day-to-day basis. “The state must and will seek to ensure the parties’ equitable access to the mass media,” the head of state said. He agreed that “this is a no simple task,” because after the introduction of new rules of creating political parties in Russia and of their functioning an active process of building new parties began. At the moment there are 48 of them, and more than 200 organizing committees have been created.

Putin raised the question of devising a code of rules of “fair political competition.” In his opinion, the mandatory conditions for operation in Russia’s political field must include the recognition of unity, integrity and sovereignty of Russia, and the banishing of manifestations of separatism from the political agenda.

“Direct or indirect interference from outside is unacceptable,” the president said.

He also pointed to the absolute impermissibility of organized crime infiltrating the bodies of power. “This is against the law in our country anyway, but it keeps trying to get there,” Putin said. “There should be no place for criminality in politics.”

The modernization of the political system is necessary, but it is impermissible to ruin the basics of the state, the president said.

Putin called for introducing control of the spending of all top officials. “This requirement must concern all officials, including number one figures in the state, in the government, in the presidential staff and their close relatives. This, of course, must concern the members of the Federation Council and the State Duma members,” he said.

As for real estate abroad, “in any case it must be declared and the official who owns it must present an account of its value, of the origin of incomes that allowed him to perform the transaction,” Putin said.

An overwhelming majority of people operating in the government structures are decent and responsible people, Putin said with certainty. “Once a person has chosen the civil service, he must be prepared for these restrictions, for public control, for complying with the special requirements, which is standard practice in all countries of the world. What kind of trust can there be towards an official or a politician who keeps pronouncing fine words about Russia’s well-being, while trying to take one’s own assets and money out of the country?”

The president believes that it would be “very wrong to abolish the flat individual income tax, because progressive taxation is not a way to ensure social justice. In his opinion the introduction of progressive taxation will become “a burden on people with medium incomes,” result in “tax evasion and a shortfall of tax incomes for the budget.” “Action in this sphere must be very careful,” Putin believes.

At the same time he is for the introduction of “a special tax on luxury, including elite real estate and expensive motor vehicles.”

The president began his message with social problems, demography in the first place, saying that “for the first time over the past few years there has been observed an absolute growth of the country’s population.” He called for encouraging the birth of third babies in Russian families. Also, he touched upon the housing problem and education. He complained society was experiencing a shortage of “spiritual bonds” - charity, sympathy and compassion. He condemned nationalism and religious intolerance.

Putin said that the Russian language and culture were keeping Russia together as a multi-ethnic state, but the ideas the nationalists were propagating were those of intolerance and posed “a threat to each and a challenge to the unity of Russian society.”

He called for easing the rules of acquiring Russian citizenship and simultaneously for tightening laws against illegal migration. Moreover, the president identified the task of restricting entry into Russia from other states, including the CIS countries, to visits allowed upon the presentation of foreign travel passports.

Under the current practice the CIS citizens can arrive in Russia using their countries’ internal passports. He said as long as foreigners would be entering Russia with internal passports, “an effective migration control will be practically impossible to enforce.”

The president asked for establishing “faster procedures of granting Russian citizenship to compatriots – bearers of the Russian language and culture, direct descendants of those born in the Russian empire and in the USSR, and also those who wished to resettle to Russia for permanent residence, giving up their current citizenship.”

Civil responsibility and patriotism are the consolidating basis of Russian politics, Putin said. He urged the authorities not to be an isolated caste, but be transparent and easy for the people to understand.

“Responsibility for one’s country is formed not by slogans or calls. The people must have a chance to see the authorities are transparent and accessible, that they work really hard for the sake of the country, the city, the region, the village and each individual, and that they take the opinion of the public into account,” Putin said.

MOSCOW, December 12