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President comes up with suggestions on the political reform

December 23, 2011, 12:52 UTC+3

President Dmitry Medvedev delivered his fourth address to the Federal Assembly

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MOSCOW, December 23 (Itar-Tass) —— President Dmitry Medvedev delivered his fourth address to the Federal Assembly, which is the last one during his presidential term. He responded to criticism with a detailed report about the work done and suggested to the opposition a new package of measures, connected with a political reform, the war on corruption and the development of feedback with the public.

Half of the fourth and the last address of President Medvedev to the Federal Assembly was actually an account of the work done during his presidency, Kommersant writes. He spoke for half an hour about the accomplishments of the past four years, despite the 2008 crisis. He mentioned achievements in the social policy, in the modernization of the national economy and the political system, in the development of civil society and the judicial system, as well as in the war on corruption and the reform of the Armed Forces.

Those who protested against corruption and took part in meetings held after the elections were given an answer in the second half of the address, the newspaper writes. He set forth a number of important proposals on the democratization of the political system and the war on corruption.

After that Medvedev passed over to the new reforms, which should be implemented in the country, and started with the proposal on a “comprehensive” political reform. When he said that the time had come to “pass over to the election of regional leaders by direct vote,” he audience gasped and responded with stormy applause. The applause followed as well the proposals to facilitate the procedure of the legislation of political parties, to cancel the provision on the need for collecting signatures by those, who wish to run for the Duma or regional legislative bodies, to reduce the number of signatures to be collected by those who wish to run for presidency. The applause was even more enthusiastic, when the President suggested the coming back to the system of elections in one-seat constituencies. The suggestion on the including of representatives of political parties in the Central Electoral Commission and regional electoral commissions was met with a storm of applause.

The emotions were the same, when the President suggested some measures for tightening control over corruption. The impression was the people in the hall did not believe that the authorities could do just like that what experts had suggested for a long time – to impose control not only over the incomes, but also over the spendings of senior officials.

Everybody wanted to know whether the political and anti-corruption initiatives of the President were the direct result of the rally held in the Bolotny Square. No one knew that for certain. “I do not think the proposals were formulated only under the impact of the recent developments. Most probably, they were the result of the fact that society is changing,” said Mikhail Fedotov, head of the presidential council for the development of civil society, responding to the question of Kommersant. “It is the economic situation, and not the rally in the Bolotny Square or the election results, that was the main reason. The leaders realize perfectly well that we are facing the prospect of a serious economic crisis, and they do not want to take all the responsibility upon themselves,” said Alexei Mitrofanov, MP from the Just Russia Party. “I think the last corrections were made in the address on Thursday morning,” said Gennady Gudkov.

In the opinion of Konstantin Remchuk, editor-in-chief of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the address of President Medvedev creates the impression of “the revolution from above.” “It was believed quite recently that direct elections of governors may be introduced in no less than 100 years. A year, or a year and a half passed, and it became clear that society had changed. The Bolotny rally made it clear that governors should not be appointed, because this erodes the legitimacy of power structures. The reform became a real perspective,” he wrote. According to Remchuk, the point at issue is real changes in the political system of the country, prompted by the developments after the elections, including the Bolotny rally. All this shows that the President happened to be responsive to political requirements of the public.”

When the President was delivering the address, he again positioned himself as a Liberal, at an equal distance from all the political forces of the country, Vedomosti writes. He said that the opinion of the people had been heeded, and conclusions had been drawn, but Russia needs democracy and not chaos.

Participants in the ceremony of the presentation of the presidential address, who were interviewed by Vedomosti, believe that the changing of the procedure of the Duma elections – the introduction of proportionate representation in 225 constituencies – was the least understandable initiative. Dvorkovich and other Kremlin officials spoke about the return to the election in one-seat constituencies. The Central Electoral Commission understood the initiative in the same way. At the same time, a senior official from the Kremlin said on Thursday that it would be actually a new system of elections by party lists. The country will be divided into 225 constituencies, with 500,000 electors in each of them. The smallest regions will have a special system of representation. The parties will be suggested the division of the federal lists not into 70-100 groups, as today, but into 225 groups, perhaps less. A minimal strength of regional groups will be established.

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