Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Changes in tone should not be dismissed

Dmitry Medvedev has begun his campaign for election to the Russian presidency using language which is in stark contrast to the often belligerent utterances of his mentor Vladimir Putin. On Tuesday he delivered a speech at the Association of Russian Lawyers of whose Board of Trustees Medvedev is the chairman. In this speech he emphasised the centrality of the rule of law to the Russian state and affirmed his intention to put the individual at the centre of development of Russia.

Medvedev began campaigning in earnest last Tuesday after officially registering as a candidate the day before. His speech at the Civic Forum, an amalgamation of various public organisations representing a cross-section of Russia’s developing civil society, similarly concerned itself with ideas of freedom, social responsibility and justice. These concepts have often been portrayed as inimical to the vertical authority which Vladimir Putin favoured.

Medvedev speaks warmly and approvingly of progress made under Putin, contrasting the strides that Russia has made under his leadership and the crises and chaos presided over by Boris Yeltsin. This is not a candidate who wishes dramatic reform and there is an emphasis on stability which echoes Putin’s ethos whereby economic and political stability were elevated to the exclusion of democratic freedoms. But neither should the change in tone be dismissed as insignificant.

Not only is the rule of law commended and “legal nihilism” condemned, but Medvedev speaks also of the need for press freedom and independence. Control of the media was a signal complaint of those who accused Putin’s regime of being anti-democratic. Whether Medvedev’s allusion to press freedom turns out to be rhetorical or not, he is recognising the necessity to address some of the objections raised to more authoritarian aspects of Putin’s governance. Indeed a threat by Communist Party presidential candidate Zyuganov to pull out of the race due to a lack of media coverage has led to an altered TV timetable of candidate addresses and Zyuganov withdrawing that threat.

Medvedev offers at the very least a turning away from the influence of the ex-KGB “siloviki” and a more genuine adherence to building civil society and the rule of law.

4 comments:

Dinamo said...

It is not the time for westerners to meddle in Russian affairs. Putin has been very tolerant of interfence by eurocrats and NATO warlords in the baltic states and kazakstan and his diplomacy has brought peace to Chechnya. And still those anti-party dissidents and saboteurs are sniping from London and are indulged by the english and still they expect us to supply the gas that heats their expensive mayfair apartments! Liberalism and democracy are grossly over-rated concepts.

Dinamo said...

Instinctively my support goes to Zyuganov (if we really must have an election rather than a vote at party Central Committee). However Medvedev with appropriate assistance when necessary would be preferable to the others.

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