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NTV's "Freedom of Speech" discusses Putin's address
Source: NTV Mir, Moscow, in Russian 1535 gmt 16 May 03

Will the state-of-the-nation address President Vladimir Putin made to parliament on 16 May change anything in Russia? This was the question presenter Savik Shuster put to the studio guests on NTV's "Freedom of Speech" programme later the same day.

The guests were Oleg Morozov, a member of the general council of the pro-Putin One Russia party; Mikhail Dmitriyev, first deputy minister of economic development and trade; Gleb Pavlovskiy, president of the Effective Policy Foundation; Sergey Glazyev, a Communist Party MP in the State Duma; and Irina Khakamada, deputy speaker of the State Duma and one of the leaders of the Union of Right Forces.

"What impressed the politicians most of all in today's address", the presenter said, was Putin's statement on the possibility of forming a professional government based on a parliamentary majority after Duma elections later this year. All the guests said that this was what Russia needed.

What would be the more effective for Russia, the presenter asked: the American model, where the president is both head of state and head of government, or the Russian model, where you have a president plus a prime minister?

Irina Khakamada's answer was that some sort of change was required because the "presidential constitution has turned out to be the weakest link": "Going by what the president is calling for, it turns out that there is no political power in Russia, to all intents and purposes," she said. "The president calls for more effective government, every time; for bureaucrats not to hamper people, for taxation to be realistic and seriously cut, for barriers in the way of small and medium business to be done away with, for poverty to be overcome, for effective social policy, for the army to be effective."

"But, each time you ask, to whom is Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin speaking? To the two chambers of parliament, to the deputies, who in reality play no serious role in answering these appeals; because everyone knows that it is the government and the presidential administration who make the main decisions," Khakamada said.

"Today's address simply made it obvious that the president is in fact complaining to us about the bureaucracy. He says the law on citizenship has turned out not to be effective, but this law was prepared within the presidential administration and was signed by Vladimir Putin."

"Over these 10 years nothing has changed. This means you have to change the instrument." Khakamada's proposal - that the president "abolish the post of prime minister and himself assume the powers of prime minister, getting rid of the unconstitutional presidential administration and forming a government on precisely the criteria he was putting forward in his address today. And you don't need to change the constitution to do this."

Oleg Morozov said Putin has had a lot on his plate, combating bureaucracy being "only one of the tasks" he faces. He did not see the need to introduce a system where the president is also prime minister: "I believe that the president's theory that we need to see a responsible government answers this problem without the need arising for a president - prime minister. A responsible government is one voted in by the people, in effect. They vote in a president and a parliament and form a government on the basis of these elections."

The presenter inserts the proviso - "There is one condition for this to work - completely honest elections."

Communist Party MP in the State Duma Sergey Glazyev dismisses the whole issue. "I think this debate has no particular meaning, because the president can do what he wants, according to our constitution." "If our president really wants to put the government under the control of the people, what is stopping him today? Just make the amendment to the constitution that we have been talking about for so long," he said.

First Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Mikhail Dmitriyev supported Putin's address. He said the main factor preventing economic growth in Russia is the ineffective state. He called for more transparency in the work of the bureaucracy, which he said should be made answerable to the people rather than to their own bosses.

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