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Putin promised political reforms to the nation

December 16, 2011, 13:09 UTC+3

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin held a four-hours-long hotline TV conference on Thursday

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MOSCOW, December 16 (Itar-Tass) — Prime Minister Vladimir Putin held a four-hours-long hotline TV conference on Thursday. The head of the Russian government and the presidential candidate told the nation what he thought about meetings of the opposition and promised to put into effect a reform of the political system.

Speaking at the hotline TV conference, Putin actually set forth the priority tasks of his presidential programme, The Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. These include the consolidation of the existing political system, the reliance on the socially vulnerable sections of the population and accusations hurled at the West. Putin prepared a surprise for the electorate by the end of the conference: he made public his intention to reform the electoral system. People will be allowed to vote for governors representing various political parties, but only those who pass through “the presidential filter.”

At first Putin said that he was pleased with the enthusiasm of the young people – “active people with a position of their own, which they clearly formulate.” He believes that if people can express their opinion today, this is an “absolutely normal thing.” He added, however, that he hoped everybody would continue to act within the framework of law.

Later it turned out that Putin’s opinion of the developments of December 10 is not so simple. He took white ribbons, with which the protesters came to the Bolotny Square, for a symbol of the struggle against AIDS.

So, on the one hand, Putin expressed respect for the protesters, but, on the other hand, he made some belittling remarks about them, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Boris Makarenko, an expert, pointed to one more detail in Putin’s speech, which he thinks is also a response to the protest action: “For the first time ever the Prime Minister spoke so much about modernization and its comprehensive character, including the political sphere. It is not accidental that he mentioned the problem after the elections and the rally in the Bolotny Square.”

Russia’s political system is on the threshold of major reforms, The Kommersant writes. Putin spoke on Thursday about the intention to get back to the election of governors and deputies to the Federation Council in the coming year. Besides, he promised to “move towards liberalization” concerning the registration of small parties. Those proposals were coordinated with President Dmitry Medvedev, who is going to present the conceptual framework of the upgrading of the political system. Putin stressed, that if he were elected president, “the consolidation of the political system” would be one of his priority tasks.

Putin promised to bring back the election of the regional leaders. The Kommersant reminds that today governors are approved by regional parliaments on the suggestion of the President. Candidates to the post of governor are presented to him by the party, which has a majority of seats in the regional legislative assembly. Today this is the United Russia Party. Now, according to Putin’s plan, all the parties represented in a regional parliament will have the right to suggest candidates to the post of governor. “We should expand the basis of democracy in the country, so that people would feel their close connection with the steering bodies, both on the local level, in the regions and on the level of the federation. Confidence in the authorities should grow,” Putin believes. At the same time, before the candidates are presented to the population, they, according to Putin, should pass “the presidential filter.” After that the president will select candidates and put them to popular vote in the regions.

Putin was asked many questions about inter-ethnic strife. The problem continues to be among the most acute ones. One of the suggestions to Putin by the video bridge was that “we should stop supporting the Caucasus.” Putin replied that the Northern Caucasus is part of Russia, its residents are Russian nationals, and their oppression would be at variance with the Constitution. In reply to the suggestion about stopping support for the Caucasus, the suggestion came on “stopping support for Moscow.” “I agree, let us do that,” Putin said.

Speaking about the future of the party led by Kasyanov-Ryzhkov-Nemtsov, Putin said that, probably, it would be registered. This is a symbol of the new political course of the Russian “father of the nation,” The Moskovsky Komsomolets writes. Putin happened to be not so stiff-necked, as he looked. One massive rally in the Bolotny Square was enough for turning him from the symbol of the “iron hand” into a tired and benevolent Liberal.

A partial return to the system of the election of governors and the right to freely express protests against the actions of the authorities are just a few things of what Russia’s former and would-be president promised to the nation. But how much was Putin really changed? – the newspaper asks.

The political atmosphere in the country, or, at least, in the big cities, was radically changed, and Putin, as an experienced and skilful politician, wishes to keep up with the process. Real supporters of the Liberal views should be under no illusion, however. Putin has not become a Liberal. Some minor changes will be made, a new style of political rhetoric will be taken up, but there will be no easing of tight control over the political process in the country. Judging by details of Putin’s hotline conference, this is the essence of his new political course. He failed to defeat his political opponents with the help of direct pressure, and now our national leader is going to outwit them and to strangle them in tight embrace.

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