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Putin Inclined to Take Steps Toward Democratizing Russia — Western Political Analyst

File Photo of Vladimir Putin
file photo
POZDNYAKOVO, Moscow region. Nov 12 (Interfax) - If Vladimir Putin wins the presidential elections, he is likely to follow the path of modernization, and Dmitry Medvedev, as prime minister, will be given carte blanche, Alexander Rahr, a political analyst from the Berthold Beitz Center under the German Council on Foreign Relations, told journalists in commenting on Putin's meeting with the Valdai International Discussion Club. "As far as I understand, Putin is prepared to follow the path of modernization, and I understand that he said that Medvedev will be tasked with leading the government with his own team, which he should propose and which Putin will endorse as president. And also that the liberal course will remain in Medvedev's hands and he will have even more powers in some economic areas than the president himself," Rahr said.

Putin is prepared for a government built by Medvedev to pursue "quite radical reforms," Rahr said. "I think Medvedev will be given carte blanche for several years. He is not stepping down, and I think this is one of the main messages that Putin wanted to send here, at Valdai Club. The message is: the tandem still exists, Medvedev is from the future generation and has actually done everything right, although they had some disagreements on foreign policy," he said.

After being appointed prime minister, Medvedev will be tasked with carrying out liberal reforms, "surely under the president's supervision," he said.

"It seems to me that Putin has decided to take up the key issues, like security, energy, and foreign policy. And Medvedev will be given a very large chunk of economic policy, and so he will have great influence in
Russia. He (Putin) did not say this directly, but as far as I understood, there is a new agreement between Medvedev and Putin that some of what Medvedev has already tried to do will be continued," Rahr said.

These statements were surprising and exciting to Western audience, because many in the West believe that Putin "is returning as the only leader and the premier would play the same role the former premiers did at the beginning of Putin's rule," Rahr said.

"I think it would be safe to say that the tandem is not dead and that Medvedev will be made the leader of the future generation," Rahr said.

Rahr also said he had the impression that Putin wants "to democratize local authorities and possibly even reinstate direct gubernatorial elections."

He said he made this conclusion from the premier's words that a complicated historical period in which Russia should have had a vertical power structure to stabilize the situation is over.

"Russia is stable today, and now it is possible to think about some changes in the system not toward stronger autocracy but toward involving the grassroots in forming a policy of the future," Rahr said in retelling Putin's position.

He pointed out that he did not have the impression that Putin could have said all this just to be appealing to the Western audience.

"I had the impression that this was not the kind of Putin whom the West fears and not that kind of Putin who was building the vertical power structure in 2005-2006 and, as the West said, 'pressured democracy," Rahr said.

A compromise between Putin's position and the program proposed by Medvedev is well possible now, Rahr said. "In my view, he is prepared to take steps that could be called liberal modernization," he said.

"There were a lot of compliments in Medvedev's address, but certainly there was the feeling that the decision has in fact been made, that he is about to assume power, and certainly he was talking to us like a man governing the country," Rahr said in describing his impressions from the meeting.

Rahr also set out Putin's view on the Russian political system, noting in particular that Putin considers it necessary for Russia to have a multiparty system.

"True, it will not include a lot of parties. He hopes for consolidation of individual parties and hopes that each of these parties will radically promote internal democracy," he said.

At the same time, Putin is absolutely convinced that United Russia will win the upcoming elections to the State Duma, Rahr said.

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