President Medvedev recognizes the frustration of those who wanted him to run for a second term. However, speaking before supporters on Saturday, he argued that Putin’s return to power would not derail Russia’s path towards modernization.
In his speech, Medvedev said that both he and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin were practical people, and thus it was necessary to find the best way to reach their mutual political goals. He realized that even though he is a popular politician, Putin is more popular, and therefore had greater political capital to tackle the country’s multifarious challenges.
Medvedev admitted that as even as a legal scholar, he did not fully understand how the state operated prior to being elected its head. In light of its monstrous size and complexity, he stressed that the state needed to be rethought, though any such reform should happen gradually so as not to destabilize the country.
In recognition that there was still much work to be done, Medvedev vowed he would stay in government to continue working with Putin on their shared goals.
Expressing bemusement at those who had questioned his close relations with Putin, Medvedev said they had been friends for 20 years and were “brothers in arms.”
He vowed that the transition would not lead to a back peddling of reforms, and there was nothing to fear from those who had pinned their future hopes on him.
“Any social or political activist must reckon with the balance of power, with the views which exist. And for these reasons, as companions, as people who are close to each other, we made the decision which you all already know about, and of course, we didn’t make it for our own sake, but rather to ensure the stable development of our state … This is not a return to the past, it is something different. “
While speaking before a United Russia party congress on September 24, Medvedev announced that he supported Putin’s candidacy for the 2012 presidential elections. Putin in his turn said he would back Medvedev to head United Russia’s party list in this December’s parliamentary elections.
From there, President Medvedev went on to outline his strong commitment to democratic reform. He emphasized that rather than simply copying an American style political system, they should rather develop one designed to tackle Russia’s specific needs and realities.
He was also quick to counter criticism that his calls to eliminate corruption were nothing more than hollow rhetoric. Stressing that the situation cannot be changed overnight, dramatic progress had been made over the past 15 years.
Medvedev has long contended that legal nihilism has both eroded Russia’s economic climate as well as led to rampant substance abuse and other social problems throughout the country.
While recognizing the full scope of the problem, Medvedev said that with the number of systemic flaws which needed to be tackled, progress must occur at a pace which reflects the country’s present realities. In an obvious allusion to Russia’s southern neighbor Georgia, he said they could not follow the same path as a vastly smaller country.
The Georgian government made international headlines in 2005 with their decision to fire the entirety of its notoriously corrupt traffic police force. Medvedev said such drastic measures were not realistic in a country the size of Russia. Rather, he stressed Russia’s more moderate 2011 police reform, which reduced the total police force by 20 per cent, increased salaries by 30 per cent, made the police force a federal level institution, and strengthened the rights of those detained by police, was far more pragmatic.
Medvedev then turned his sites on both the ruling United Russia party and how they would need to change in the coming years. While thanking them for backing his 2007 presidential candidacy and supporting all of his initiatives, they were also in need of strong reform.
Alluding to the firebrand 20th century Soviet leader Leon Trotsky, Medvedev said those who failed to listen to feedback from ordinary people in this day and age would “condemn themselves to the dustbin of history.”
Thus, Medvedev called on United Russia to become less bureaucratic and to involve more people who, instead of coming from the economic or political elite, reflected the intelligence and strength of Russia’s grass roots and civil society.
Medvedev also stated that United Russia’s historic party primaries, which took place over the summer and included some 5,000 candidates, was a positive step towards overhauling the party.
In recognition that he did not know exactly where the country would be in 10 years’ time, he laid out his vision of a “Grand Government” which would entail a strong multi-party system with United Russia continuing to play a key role.
“I propose that we consider creating what could be called a “grand government “or, as some say, a broader government, which will operate in conjunction with the ruling party, which is able to form such a government, with “United Russia “, together with civil society, together with experts, together with the regional and municipal authorities, together with all the voters who are willing to vote for us. It could even be with those who don’t entirely agree with us, if they are ready for this of course.”
Medvedev believes that changes instituted during his tenure would help bring about these goals. Arguing that elections had already been made more transparent, he went on to tout a bill he had submitted to the State Duma – Russia’s lower house of parliament – in June which will lower the electoral threshold from seven to five per cent.
However, in a potential reference to non-registered political movements like “Other Russia” or the People’s Freedom Party, Medvedev argued that those who wish to take part in the political process should set forth aims that are both feasible and reasonable if they hope to be taken seriously.
After praising social and economic gains made on a variety of fronts, Medvedev stressed that if United Russia managed to win the upcoming December 4 parliamentary elections, its victory would ensure the further development of the country.
In an obvious call to those who may still be feeling the sting of his decision not to run, Medvedev stressed that unity was the only way forward if Russia was to be one of the top five global economies before the decade’s end.