Medvedev slams ruling party for Russia 'stagnation'

24th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday launched an unprecedented attack on the party that has dominated Russian politics for the last decade, saying the country was becoming stuck in political stagnation.

United Russia -- whose overall leader is prime minister and Medvedev's Kremlin predecessor Vladimir Putin -- has held an overwhelming majority in parliament since its creation and has squeezed out the liberal opposition.

"If the ruling party has no chance of every losing anywhere, it eventually 'bronzes over' and also degrades, just like any other living organism that does not move," Medvedev said in a video blog address.

Medvedev blamed United Russia for dominating television air and receiving a number of other important advantages from federal and local election officials.

His comments came ahead of a major policy address the Kremlin chief will deliver to the two houses of parliament Tuesday -- a speech that will be read closely for signs of whether Medvedev plans to stand for reelection in 2012.

Medvedev warned Russia was already becoming stuck in the political stagnation that Russians remember in the last decades of the Soviet Union.

"At a certain point, our political life started showing symptoms of stagnation," he said in the video blog, which he periodically records as part of an effort to appear more approachable to the Russian public.

"And this stagnation is equally damaging to both the ruling party and the opposition forces."

The Russian word for stagnation (or "zastoi") is often used by historians to describe the political drift that the Soviet Union experienced in the latter years of Leonid Brezhnev's leadership -- a period when the country's status as a superpower began to wane.

But Russia's liberals -- who are sidelined to the point of having no representation in parliament -- have long accused of Medvedev of failing to match his ambitious rhetoric with concrete actions to improve democracy.

"This is not the first time that Dmitry Medvedev -- who has made Russia's modernisation into a top concern of his presidency -- has talked about the need to refresh Russia's political life," the independent website remarked.

Yet Medvedev took credit on Wednesday for making a number of "gradual but unwavering" political improvements that he vowed would only continue.

Medvedev was expected to take his message to a Wednesday meeting with the heads of the country's largest political parties -- including the ruling United Russia group.

The Russian leader -- seen by some analysts as more liberal than Putin -- has positioned himself in the run-up to the 2012 election campaign as a modernising force for Russia.

But he has said little in public about whether he will run for a second term once this one expires. The 2012 election can potentially also be contested by Putin -- who would be allowed to stand for a third term under a constitutional loophole.

Medvedev has expressed mild concern over the role of United Russia in Russia before, but this appeared to be his first full-out criticism of the domination of the ruling party.

But United Russia appeared to take the criticism from the president -- who like Putin is not a card-carrying member of the party -- in its stride.

"We understand Dmitry Anatolyevich (Medvedev) perfectly well," top party member Andrei Vorobyov told Moscow Echo radio.

"A contemporary democracy needs competition," he added. "We do not view the opposition is the enemy -- it is simply a different voice."

© 2010 AFP

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