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Medvedev warns of stagnation in Russian politics

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is concerned about a lack of political competition, which he said on Wednesday, could lead to stagnation. He has pledged to take measures to improve competition.

Russian State Duma

The ruling party United Russia dominates the Duma

In his harshest criticism yet of former PresidentVladimir Putin's ruling party United Russia, President Dmitry Medvedev warned on Wednesday that Russian politics faced stagnation because of a lack of competition.

For a full 11 minutes, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reviewed the state of Russian democracy in his video blog, and the general impression was that he was happy with what he saw. Still, he said, the lack of political competition could lead to stagnation, a term usually used to describe the rule of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, who ruled from 1964 to 1982.

"It is no secret that at a certain point in our political life symptoms of stagnation began to emerge," Medvedev said in the blog.

"And the danger arose that stability would turn into stagnation. And such a stagnation is equally damaging for both the ruling party and for opposition forces."

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

Medvedev warned of political stagnation in Russia

More competition needed

Medvedev suggested that the current state of events, with the ruling party winning most elections with a landslide, was ultimately harmful to the country and that more competition was sorely needed.

"If the opposition does not stand the slightest chance of winning in an honest battle, it is degraded and becomes marginalized. But if the ruling party has no chance whatsoever to lose, it simply turns into bronze and ultimately also degrades, like any living organism which does not move," he said.

United Russia, whose leader is Prime Minister Putin, dominates the Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament. It has won virtually every election over the past 10 years, receiving close to 100 percent of the vote in some regions. In many ways, the party looks like a modern day copy of the Communist Party of the Soviet era.

Though support has been dwindling for some time, according to opinion polls, United Russia once again emerged as the clear winner in the latest regional elections in October. But independent observers said the outcome was marred by large-scale fraud.

voter castng ballot

Regional elections were not above board, say observers

Lip service

United Russia also dominates television news broadcasts, where opposition parties not represented in parliament have no access whatsoever.

Medvedev hardly addressed these concerns, instead devoting most of his time to what he said the government had done to improve the level of democracy in Russia, and he clearly did not question whether or not elections held in Russia can be called free and fair.

The ruling party, meanwhile, was quick to embrace Medvedev's criticism. According to one of its leaders, Andrei Vorobyov, United Russia supports the president's initiatives, even though, he said, it means conditions will be tougher for his party. ,

"But politics is a struggle,'' he said, "and we, as before, are ready to fight for each vote."

Observers in Moscow said Medvedev's remarks may be aimed at creating a more liberal image, ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections next year. But neither Medvedev nor Putin have tipped their hands about which, if any, office they intend to stand for in the 2011 polls.

Author: Geert Groot Koerkamp (ng)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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