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Gorbachev Criticizes Russian Politics, Says New People Needed

MOSCOW. July 23 (Interfax) - Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, in a radio program on Saturday, expressed skepticism about the current political situation in Russia and said it could be changed in five to six years if there were honest parliamentary elections and new people and a new party came onto the scene.

Gorbachev told the Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) radio that he would like to co-found a new social democratic party but that he had no plans to run for president.

"We don't have a powerful social democratic party, a people's party," he said.

All existing parties, "even including the present-day Communists," are puppets for the ruling regime, the last Soviet leader said.

Nor did he have any confidence in the United Russia party.

Attempts are being made to wake up United Russia, he said. "(Prime Minister) Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin) has got involved in earnest, but this isn't working," Gorbachev said.

As for the Russian Popular Front, a broad public association that is being formed at Putin's initiative, Gorbachev said: "I won't help them because they are dragging us backward, or slowing us down at the very least."

He argued Russia needs to revise its election legislation. Single-mandate constituencies should be brought back, direct gubernatorial elections should be reintroduced, early voting should be abolished, and the minimum proportion of votes to be won for receiving seats in the State Duma should be set at 5%, he suggested.

"Personal loyalties and nepotism" are the main distinctions of today's parliament, Gorbachev said.

"Parliament is so loyal that this is just unbearable for society. Everyone is taking care to use their presence in the Duma for their own sake, whereas it should be used in public interest," he said.

As for Putin, Gorbachev credited him with doing a great deal for Russia during his first term of presidency but said Putin had made some mistakes as well. I was a fundamental mistake, for example, to abolish direct gubernatorial elections, Gorbachev said. "And on it went," the ex-Soviet president said.

President Dmitry Medvedev is generally "a capable man, well-educated, a good lawyer, which is quite important," Gorbachev said. "But I don't know - whether it's because there's something that's lacking in his character, there's some weakness there, - in the same tandem with Putin, who will give him a chance to show all his potential there?"

Gorbachev said Russia needs a new coalition and that Medvedev should head it.

"None of the current coalitions would do," Gorbachev said.


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