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German Press Review: Putin's Plan

Russian President Vladimir Putin's plans to overhaul the Russian political system, allowing him to handpick regional leaders, as a way of fighting terrorism didn't go down well with German editorialists Tuesday.

"Giving the security services a good working over and moving in against corruption -- there’s certainly no problem with that," the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote. "Both are long overdue anyway." However, the paper took issue with the proposed new system of selecting regional leaders in a way that would further boost the Kremlin’s power. "Whether the terrorism can be rooted out by simply kicking out political opponents, at a time of national mourning and a general calling-to-arms and disguised as a nation-saving exercise, well, that’s questionable, to say the least," the daily concluded.

Putin's desire to appoint provincial leaders instead of letting them be chosen by popular vote, not only in the Caucasus but in all 89 of Russia’s regions also caught the Handelsblatt's attention. The paper decried the move and criticized that independent candidates and small parties will lose out in the elections. Putin justified the move with the need to strengthen his direct line of power, which would reach all the way from the top downwards. Putin’s party has a two thirds majority in the Duma from which Russia’s constitution could be changed at will, the Handelsblatt also observed. The daily also called the system Putin wants to install in Russia comparable to that of the Moscow-controlled Soviet Union.

The tageszeitung from Berlin questioned the benefit political changes would have for Russia's modernization. "The Kremlin’s reaction to the threat -- perceived or otherwise -- posed by international terrorism is introducing sweeping changes to the political system," it reflected. The changes will sound the death knell to the ambitious project that was started 20 years ago -- the of modernizing Russia from top to bottom. "The last remaining citadels of political and structural independence -- weakened already -- are being demolished," the paper feared.

Putin is fatally and unfortunately moving the wrong direction and what is even worse he’s set to put in place a system which will muffle all criticism of his policies, the Financial Times Deutschland remarked. The Russian president sees the dispute over the lack of democracy in his country or a media critical of his policies as annoying handicaps, which increases the risk of political aberration. The paper advised German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to step in and explain to his friend Putin strategies to stifle all political dissent will only add to violence rather than weaken it.

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