Time to rethink Russian system: President Medvedev

27th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday said it was time to rethink the Russian system, with a view to making it freer and less centralised

"It is completely obvious the centralisation of power in any state and even in such a complex federal state like Russia could not continue forever," Medvedev told billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, a strong opponent of the dominance of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's ruling faction.

"Now it's time to think how our whole system ... could become less bureaucratic, freer and considerably less centralised," Medvedev told the tycoon at the Gorky presidential residence outside Moscow.

"I hope Pravoe Delo (Right Cause) will take part in it," said Medvedev as he endorsed some of the businessman's ideas while calling others "revolutionary," in remarks released by the Kremlin.

Ranked Russia's second richest man with a reported fortune of $22.7 billion, Prokhorov over the weekend won the leadership of the pro-reform party, pledging to help it win enough votes to gain entry to parliament in December polls and whittle down the influence of Putin's United Russia.

Prokhorov has publicly savaged Russia's top-down power structure, calling the country an "empire." In a meeting with Medvedev, he reiterated that sentiment, saying Russia should elect rather than nominate prosecutors and police chiefs.

Speaking in an interview with business daily Vedomosti released earlier Monday, Prokhorov also said one of the top three state television channels should be privatised to make news media more diverse and competitive.

"I believe that one of three state television channels should be privatised in the nearest future," he said, adding that in the future no shareholder should have more than 25% in any top television channel.

All top television channels in Russia have become state-controlled after Putin came to power in 1999 using his tight control over the national air waves to consolidate his grip on power.

Prokhorov's election to the post of party chairman is the first time a top businessman has entered politics since the arrest in 2003 of oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who supporters say was punished for daring to finance opposition to strongman Putin.

Critics say however the move would have been unimaginable without the blessing from Russia's ruling duo, who are keen for Russia to have a semblance of competition ahead of the elections.

The New Times opposition weekly separately quoted Prokhorov as saying that he thought the Kremlin gave the green light to the party because it did not want to repeat the fate of Egypt's fallen leader Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in a popular uprising earlier this year.

"Our situation is no better," Prokhorov reportedly told his party members.

"The Soviet model. I think that in July 1991 no one also expected what would happen in August," he said, referring to the failed hard-line coup against Mikhail Gorbachev.

With just nine months left before the March elections, neither Medvedev, 45, nor Putin, 58, have announced their candidacy amid warnings from businesses that the uncertainty was now hurting the investment climate.

The magazine, citing sources close to Prokhorov, said he was ready to spend $100 million of his own money on the election campaign and hoped other businesspeople would match that amount.

The tycoon, who owns big stakes in the country's biggest gold producer Polyus Zoloto and UC Rusal, the world's top aluminium producer, also told Vedomosti that from now on politics would take priority over business for him.

© 2011 AFP

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