Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Medvedev shows an iron fist in the cause of reform as Luzhkov is dismissed

Further evidence of Dmitry Medvedev’s growing assertiveness in the cause of reform. After a public spat, Yuri Luzhkov, the demotic mayor who ran Moscow like a private fiefdom, has been dismissed by the Russian president.

Luzhkov, a Yeltsin functionary and then a fixture of United Russia who had held his position since 1992, clashed with Medvedev when the Kremlin cancelled a road building project, due to objections by environmental campaigners.

Against a powerful enemy, often portrayed as untouchable, the President showed steely determination. In recent weeks Russian state TV shone a spotlight on the corrupt kleptocracy which Luzhkov operated in Moscow, in order to enrich his own family.

Despite clear signals from the Kremlin that his reign was nearing its end, the mayor clung on to the bitter end and refused to jump. Medvedev held his nerve and applied a much needed shove.

The interesting aspect of this dismissal is that Luzhkov had made some very dismissive comments about the President, suggesting that Russia needed a stronger and more decisive leader at its helm.

With the 2012 presidential election approaching that could clearly be interpreted as a call for Vladimir Putin to return to the top post.

Medvedev believes he has work still to do at the Kremlin, in particular modernising Russia’s economy and recalibrating its foreign policy to attract trade. He may not be as unnerved or unseated as easily as some commentators presume.

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