Главная > Дневник событий > Политика > Medvedev — mid-term assessment of domestic policy*

Medvedev — mid-term assessment of domestic policy*

On 7th May, Medvedev will have been president of the Russian Federation for two years. What has he achieved in his first years in office?

In his November 2008 state of the nation address, Medvedev proposed 12 measures to promote what he called ‘the future development of Russian democracy' all of which have now been implemented:

1. Putin's seven percent hurdle that parties had to clear before being allowed to enter parliament has now been lowered. From the next election, any party gaining between five and seven percent of the vote can enter parliament or send two members.

2. Any party wishing to participate in the next Duma elections in 2011 will only need to gather 150 000 signatures instead of the previous 200 000 and this will be reduced to 120 000 signatures in the subsequent election.

3. The rule requiring political parties to pay a hefty deposit (60 million roubles or 1.5m euros) at the 2007 Duma election – in order to participate in an election has now been abolished.

4. Senators must be members of parliament or local assemblies in the same region as the one they represent in the Federation Council.

5. The right to nominate candidates for the post of governor rests with the leading political group in the appropriate regional parliament. When Putin abolished the direct election of governors in 2004, only the President could draw up the candidate list for submission to the regional assemblies.

6. The number of members political parties need to have for official registration with the Ministry of Justice has been reduced from 50 000 to 45 000 and in 2012 will further drop to 40 000.

7. Political parties are required to alter their statutes to ensure that official positions are subject to rotation.

8. Local councils, on their own or the initiative of the governor, can dismiss their mayor if he or she is not doing a good job.

9. Political parties represented in the Duma have equal access to state television and radio media for a monthly presentation of their activities.

10. The prime minister is required to present a report on government activities to the Duma during the first six months of office that members of parliament will then debate.

11. The Duma is required to send all draft legislation to the Social Chamber that brings together representatives of NGOs on a rotating basis. The members of this presidential advisory body have the right to address the Duma for up to five minutes in the case of draft legislation affecting civil liberties.

12. After the next election, the legislative period of the Duma will be extended by one year to five and the presidential period of office extended by two years to six.

In his second state of nation address on 12th November 2009 Medvedev proposed that these twelve changes to the federal system should also apply at the regional level. Work has already begun on this.

While Putin is primarily concerned with tackling the economic problems caused by the financial crisis, President Medvedev sees the necessity of thoroughly modernising Russia and its political system. In his open letter “Forward, Russia!” that first appeared 10 September 2009 in a critical online newspaper, the President presented a no holds barred analysis of the state of Russia which he described as a “primitive economy based on raw materials” that was “chronically corrupt” and fixated on the “old habit” of relying on the state, a foreign power or any other factor to solve its problems rather than look to itself. He further described Russia's democratic institutions as “still far from being ideal” and stated that “civil society is weak.”

Medvedev wants a step by step approach to the reform of the political system as his opponents, described in the last paragraph of his open letter as “influential groups of corrupt officials and useless business people” are well organised. He further stated “they have everything….. but the future will not belong to them.”

To improve the legal system Medvedev has signed two measures originally initiated by him: one concerning the publication of information in the mass media about the workings of the courts and the second to cut the time it takes for the courts to deal with petitions from members of the public. This spring, both chambers of the Russian Parliament finally ratified protocol 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Russia is the last of the 47 members of the Council of Europe to approve this protocol that, inter alia, simplifies the complaints procedure so that applications from Russia (some 40% of the 100,000 untreated claims in Strasburg) can be dealt with more swiftly.

Medvedev, who has until now belonged to the Putin faction, has begun to develop something of an independent reputation. Kremlin insiders calculate that the power balance between the Putin conservatives and the Medvedev liberals is about 70:30. But Medvedev can only get his policies through when he has his own troops and these he is building up in a gradual manner. His supporters, most of whom he got to know during the time he was a law lecturer in St Petersburg 1990-1999, now hold important positions in the legal system. This is important for both Russia and the President as Medvedev's stated major aim is to establish the rule of law. The Medvedev camp includes: Anton Ivanov, chairman of the highest employment court that is responsible for taxation issues; Sergey Mevrin, the deputy chairman of the constitutional court; Artur Parfenchikov, the director of the federal service for pardons; Segey Dubik, the presidential representative on the senior body deciding the appointment of judges; Alexander Konovalov, the Minister of Justice; Pavel Krashcheninnikov, chairman of the Duma committee for citizenship and legislation covering both infringement and arbitration legal processes; Jury Chayka, the state prosector. The chairman of the Federal Council, Sergey Mironov and the party he leads, A Just Russia, can also be counted as part of the Medvedev camp. On the economic scene it is the small and medium entrepreneurs who support Medvedev, not the major concerns and those in the extractive industries, who view Putin as representing their interests.

In recent months both Medevedev and Putin have repeatedly said in interviews that they are interested in running for the presidency in 2012 but they have emphasised that they would decide beforehand as to which of them would be the candidate. They have excluded the possibility that they would run against each other. Their statements indicate the one who commanded the most popular support at the time candidates had to declare (in 2011) would be the one who would run. The candidate question is not a simple matter of personality but more importantly about the different policies they incorporate. There is most certainly a conflict between them but the iron discipline imposed by the Kremlin and the White House ensures that this is kept under wraps.

Half way through his presidency, Medvedev is losing his caution and timidity. If his modernisation policy does not fall at the first hurdle and Russia experiences no catastrophes then Putin should allow Medvedev to run for the presidency in 2012. If Putin does not agree to this it would be a very public humiliation for Medvedev and the elite groups supporting him because everyone knows that the constitution permits Medvedev to run for a second term. It is reasonable to assume that before running for a second term, Medvedev will embark on changing the current presidential system of government into a parliamentary one with a more powerful role for the prime minister, who would once again bear the name of Putin.

Putin will only approve Medvedev's candidacy for president if there has been prior agreement that Medvedev proposes him as a candidate for a further term as prime minister. The Duma elections at the beginning of December 2011 will most likely see One Russia, whose chairman is Putin, returned as the largest parliamentary party.

© Eberhard SCHNEIDER, Professor, member of the EURC advisory board

* First published at: http://www.eu-russiacentre.org/our-publications/column/medvedev-midterm-assessment-domestic-policy.html

№5(44), 2010

№5(44), 2010