Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (left) today accused Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of “shameless … conceit” for monopolizing power and denying Russia’s citizens a real democratic choice.
Putin’s return to the presidency would increase tension with the West and end prospects for political pluralism, jailed former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky warned.
Some 34 percent of Russians believe public unrest could lead to an Egyptian-style overthrow of the regime, according to a new poll by Levada, an independent polling centre.
Putin has said that President Dmitry Medvedev and he will decide which one of them will run in the March 2012 presidential elections.
“It is shameless … such conceit is unbelievable,” said Gorbachev. “This is not Putin’s business. It is the business of the nation. It is the business of elections. It is the business of those who will vote.”
Russia “has come no more than half-way””on the path toward democracy, he said. “We have a parliament, courts, a president, a prime minister … But you know that this is little more than imitation,” he said:
A couple of years ago I decided I would like to get involved in the creation of an independent democratic party but Surkov, the deputy head of the President’s administration, said why are you wasting your time – we will never register your party. Why should he decide that? For doing that he should be removed.
Like the former ruling Communist Party, Putin’s ruling United Russia party had no strategy for moving Russia forward.
“United Russia looks to me like the worst copy of the Soviet Communist Party,” a political monopoly that could only produce “stagnation,” said Gorbachev.
The prospects for a constitutional transfer of power will be severely jeopardized should Russia’s prime minister return to the presidency, the country’s most famous political prisoner cautioned today.
“If Putin runs in the elections, this would mean that the peaceful transition of power has failed,” said Khodorkovsky (right). In a politically-motivated ruling, the former head of the oil firm Yukos was imprisoned last December until October 2017.
Putin’s return to the Kremlin would aggravate confrontation with the West and put an end to the “reset” in US-Russia relations.
“(His return) would mean that the choice has been made towards limited confrontation with the West,” he said.
The West should stop treating the Kremlin’s ruling clique as legitimate leaders, a group of leading Russian democrats said today.
“Western leaders must stop closing their eyes to Russian leaders’ clear noncompliance with international obligations, especially concerning free and fair elections and basic human rights,” said Mikhail Kasyanov, Vladimir Milov, Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Ryzhkov, co-chairs of the People’s Freedom Party in Russia.
“The West should cease greeting Russian rulers as equals, providing them with legitimacy they clearly do not merit.”