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Moscow Times: A New Democratic Agenda

Author: Mikhail S. Gorbachev
December 29, 2010

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Writing in The Moscow Times, Mikhail Gorbachev laments 2005-06 changes in Russian electoral processes that reduced transparency and closed off Russian politics from societal feedback.

Russia is on the eve of a pre-presidential election year. What happens in 2011 will, in my opinion, be even more important than the presidential election itself. Indeed, the evolution of Russian society could transform the country’s politics, despite those domestic opponents who deny change or those who unqualifiedly classify Russia as “incorrigibly authoritarian.” But for that to happen, a new agenda for Russia must be developed this year.

A decade ago, defense of Russia’s territorial integrity and restoration of governability topped the list of priorities. People supported President Vladimir Putin, who was devoted to this “stabilization” agenda. We may debate the means by which it was pursued, and how successfully, but Russia’s “existential” challenges were largely overcome.

But progress on stabilization only highlighted Russia’s unresolved problems, which the global financial crisis exacerbated, but did not cause. After all, the country’s resource-based, de-industrializing, expenditure-driven economy is the result of purely domestic choices. Nor was it the crisis that gave rise to corruption at all levels of the government or that caused Russia to lose its democratic dynamic.

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