Thursday, March 24, 2011

Medvedev Can Restore Russian Democracy with Four Orders

Russia has been downgraded by Freedom House from “partially free” to “unfree” with good reason: regional and municipal officials are no longer elected, but appointed by the Kremlin. Opposition candidates are excluded from election lists, denied access to the media, beaten and harassed. Journalists are intimidated or killed with no repercussions. There is no rule of law.

The loss of Russian democracy is the work of Vladimir Putin and his “KGB state.” His partner, President Dimitry Medvedev, in the “tandem” that rules Russia is on public record as being opposed to these developments and promises to do better. If Medvedev is sincere, he has the constitutional authority as the duly elected president of the Russian Federation to restore Russian democracy, which he can do by issuing the following four orders:

First, fire his Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin.

The average tenure of Russian prime ministers is about a year and a half, and it is the prime minister who takes the fall when things go wrong. Medvedev can cite two reasons for firing Putin: First, Putin’s criticism of his Libyan foreign policy was an act of insubordination. Second, the Russian economy under Putin’s tutelage has suffered a crisis more severe than its neighbors and is still as dependent on oil as it was a decade ago.

Second, issue an amnesty for Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

It is clear to all that Khodorkovsky has been twice sentenced on sham charges under Putin’s direction for daring to challenge him. The Khodorkovsky case clearly reveals Russia’s lack of rule of law and discourages foreign and domestic investment. Khodorkovsky’s release signals that Russia intends to abide by the rule of law.

Third, order the Central Election Commission to allow opposition candidates on election lists and access to the media.

In previous national, regional, and municipal elections, opposition candidates have been arbitrarily excluded from election lists by illegal or arbitrary means and they have been denied access to the media. Such an order would tell the world that Russia intends on having free elections.

Fourth, order the police, militia and security forces to honor the constitutional guarantee of freedom of assembly.

Attempts to organize political demonstrations have been violently suppressed by the police and paramilitary thugs despite the explicit guarantee of freedom of assembly in the Russian constitution. A key safeguard of democracy is the freedom of assembly.

It is time to call Medvedev’s bluff. Does he only like to talk about lofty principles such as free elections and rule of law or is he willing to actually do something, even if the course is risky, to say the least. If Medvedev is brave enough to issue these four orders, he would go down as a significant figure in history.


  1. I could not agree more!

    The fake trial and harsh sentencing of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev require the Russian president to exercise his constitutional prerogative and to declare a pardon for the two men whose status is now revealed to be, not that they are political prisoners, but that they are victims of a malicious persecution and abuse of the judicial system by a corrupt politician.

    If Medvedev can bring himself to an understanding that this is the reality he faces, his primary and urgent duty is to dismiss Prime Minister Vladimir Putin from the office he now holds. Will he do so?

  2. How can someone dismiss a person who had appointed him to be the temporary president (Medvedev's election was orchestrated) of the country, in order not to have the constitution changed immediately, but rather prolong his next stay in the Kremlin from four (read eight) to six (read twelve) years. Alex Narovlyanski. Moscow

  3. Khodorkovski is not a clearcut political prisoner. He had unsuccessfylly attempted to combine his extraordinary financial wealth with political influence in Russia, and failed miserably at that. Half of the Russian Duma was on his payroll, but he had underestimated the powers of "siloviki" and as a result of that, had his business nationalised and himself thrown to prison. Lets not forget, that Khodorkovski's road to wealth and power in Russia was not all ligit. He saw himself as being a high-roller, but eventually betted on the wrong horse. (Alexander Narovlyanski, Moscow)