After years micro-managing Russia’s emerging democracy, is the Kremlin now ready to ease-off the reigns of power and allow more new political parties to challenge the dominance of the ruling party United Russia?
In an interview http://eng.news.kremlin.ru/video/620 posted on Dmitry Medvedev’s blog, the Russian president claimed that under his leadership elections are now cleaner and more open to smaller political parties.
Still, Medvedev warned Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party that the country runs the risk of stagnation without more competition:
If the opposition hasn’t the slightest chances of winning in an honest fight it degrades and turns marginal.
But if the ruling party has no chances to lose anywhere at anytime, it becomes ‘bronzed’ and ultimately degrades too.
Current polls suggest United Russia could gain 63 per cent of the vote in elections in 2011 but the call for reform opens up new possibilities for the nation’s political architecture.
If sweeping changes are introduced could United Russia lose its constitutional majority in the Duma, the lower parliament, after next year’s vote?
Since its inception in 2001, United Russia has consistently squeezed smaller political parties out of politics – organisations like the united democratic movement Yabloko, who in 1995 won 45 seats in parliament and in 2007 didn’t win a single seat.
Political analyst Yury Korgunyuk, in an interview with the Moscow Times, said:
Putin used United Russia to crush everyone in the field of public politics and that is why it was so fat and heavy.
Medvedev feels he may achieve his goals as a leader in subtler ways and United Russia in its current condition is not a good tool for that.
Medvedev has demanded officials rotate positions to stop policy makers from getting “too comfortable”.
He’s also submitted a raft of legislation to give parties equal rights to campaign and eased entry requirements into regional assemblies for parties that manage to gain 10 per cent of the local vote
A number of political figures pushed to the margins in recent years are possibly planning a political comeback.
Among them, notorious Putin critic Eduard Limonov former head of the National Bolshevik Party outlawed in 2007, former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov and ex-chess champion Garry Kasparov.
Opposition groups still say that not enough is being done to modernise the political system but one thing is certain that Russian politics is set to get more complicated.