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Russia needs new social contract, believe liberal experts

April 04, 2013, 10:53 UTC+3

Restrictive laws are approved only by a relative majority of citizens (40 percent), and some laws are not supported at all – for example, the law on rallies

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The Committee of Civil Initiatives chaired by Russia’s former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, on Thursday will mark its first anniversary with a presentation of a summary report, in which it will set forth “the contours of a new social contract” for Russia.

The Committee of Civil Initiatives will end its first year of work with a study that analyses the changes that have occurred in the public mood in 20112012, the Kommersant daily writes. The sentiments were studied on the order of the Committee by experts from the Centre for Political Technologies (CPT), according to which the relations between the “power elites and society require “a new social contract.” Russia’s society “will never return to the state in which it had been prior to December 2011,” CPT President Igor Bunin told the newspaper.

The version of the “inertia of the current political system (“going our own way”) is supported by only a quarter of the citizens,” says the report that will be presented on Thursday. The “left turn” by the Soviet model is seen by 13 percent of citizens. And “18 percent see a way out of the current situation in the authoritarian regime of an “iron hand.” But a large number of Russians (38 percent) need “democracy, much like European.” Therefore, experts see no prospects for the “conservative wave” the reaction of the Russian government to last year’s events.

Instead of this “wave” the people need “a shift towards greater openness, pluralism, competition, and most importantly accountability and “responsiveness” of the authorities.” In practice, this should lead to the “strengthening of the basic principles of democracy, rule of law, security of private property rights, fair political competition, actual implementation of the constitutional freedoms.” This is the basis for a “new social contract,” according to experts. However, they stressed that Russia can no longer stay in a “transition state” when “simultaneously some elements of the political system are liberalised and “restrictive” laws are introduced.” This “transition” for the country is the last, the experts warn: “If it does not find a way to move to a qualitatively new and modern state, it is facing a throwback and degradation.”

In April last year, Alexei Kudrin became the head of the Committee of Civil Initiatives, the main task of which was to develop liberal legislative initiatives, the Kommersant daily recalls.

The Vedomosti newspaper also quotes data of polls that were used in the report. They in particular, have shown that restrictive laws are approved only by a relative majority of citizens (40 percent), and some laws are not supported at all for example, the law on rallies.

On the other hand, there is a demand for democratisation in the society. Protest actions are supported by 32 percent of citizens, and the very right to peaceful street protest is considered as valuable by 40 percent.

The demand for liberalisation is not met in the form of a strong democratic party. However, the still weak civil society is beginning to wake up. The “core,” unconditional support for the authorities is relatively low, and the peripheral groups of support can secede: ones are dissatisfied with the lack of modernisation, others with insufficient tightening. Tension in the elites is growing. Experts consider indicative the words of businessman Oleg Deripaska in an interview to The Financial Times: “The Russian law enforcement system is inefficient, but so strong that it will defend itself ’til the last bullet.” The elite see the erosion of the rules of the game and are responsive to the constant decline of Vladimir Putin’s rating. The competition inside the elite is also growing.

A formal conclusion of the social contract is not possible, it is possible only if the authorities for rational considerations will agree to self-restraint and change of the conduct model, the newspaper quotes the report author Igor Bunin.

At present, the authorities are unlikely to agree to this, but their erosion and pressure from below will continue and in some 23 years the need to use non-violent mechanisms to avoid a catastrophe will be obvious to all, member of the Committee of Civil Initiatives Yevgeny Gontmakher believes.


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