Listening to Dima “Teddy” Medvedev
by Dave Essel
The recent state-of-the-nation speech by Pooty’s Teddy was epoch-making. Shame is, the epoch it unfurled is “more of the same”. It makes me think, showing my age, of The Who:
I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again
Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss…
Of course, the Russians as a nation will be fooled again. Grani.ru’s writers and readers won’t be, of course, but they are, sadly, a practically unheard minority with no real influence except insofar as it is they who will provide a moral measure for posterity.
I’m feeling Trotskyist in wanting things in Russia to get worse so that a general desire for a cure is generated. In fact, sensible and intelligent as the comments below are, I am surprised at the absence of consideration given to the fact that, thanks to the economic crisis which is crashing down on Russia, the Pooty social contract of “we give you some stability at the low level to which we have ensured you are accustomed and a basic income and you let us get on with robbing the country blind” may break down and actually lead to something more than words.
Perhaps only a foreigner can wish such a thing on a country.
Here then, are comments on the Teddy’s speech published in Grani.ru last week, preceded by this introduction:
“In his address to the nation, Dmitri Medvedev called for an expansion and deepening of democracy, the first step towards which is a proposal to extend the term of the presidency in Russia from four years to six. Read the comments of Yulia Latynina, Vladimir Prybylovsky, Dmitry Oreshkin, Marina Litvinovich and Irina Yasina.”
Yuliya Latynina, journalist:
If I have understood this correctly, the longer presidential term requires a constitutional amendment, which in turn means that there will have to be new elections sometime soon. I take is as read that Dmitri Anatolievich Medvedev will win that election. I cannot help but note that his speech was made at the height of the financial crisis, at a time when money is gushing out of the country. I don’t think that increasing the presidential term will help stabilise the financial situation.
His was a speech, that besides other matters, blamed the USA for all the bad thing that have occurred during the financial crisis, at a time when shares in Russian companies are valued in cents. It will not be making their value rise, either. However, it may perhaps help the Russian state – the state that may now be ruled for six years by the next president – to buy up in Russia’s companies on the cheap. I refuse to categorise this as a state revolution. It’s a putsch combined with the largest single act of insider dealing in the history of mankind. I cannot but applaud.
Vladimir Prybylovsky, president, Panorama Information and Analysis Centre:
I would not exclude the possibility of this meaning two presidential terms of 6 years each for Putin. Medvedev will not, I think, even stay on until the end of his term. He’ll see this reform through and sweetly hand the reigns back to Putin. The speech itself was a mish-mash of clashing components. Some good but petty political proposals in support of democratisation totally overweighed by the idea of increasing the presidential term of office.
The promises (real, I hope) not to further statise the economy may just perhaps be true and reflect a real position – because Putin has said this too. One can perceive a wish to strike a balance between capitalism and centralised economic management.
A lot of aggressive rhetoric address at the United States but some softer words too.
As for democracy, sensible things were said about “letting small parties have their say too” but that was the end of it: entry barriers will not be removed and we’ll just give each small party a seat or two. We already know how things work out in such cases: in pre-democracy Mexico, the president would kindly grant opposition parties a few parliamentary seats as a personal gift.
Dmitri Oreshkin, political analyst:
In a time of crisis, Russia needs flexibility and the authorities’ priorities need to be able to switch rapidly in response to changing needs. It is very indicative that Obama should win the presidency in the USA with the slogan about ‘time for change’ while in Russia they talk of stabilisation, which really means the preservation of current state institutions.
Now the talk is of extending the time to be spent in power of the current élite which controls the process, allowing them to rule for even longer irrespective of the effectiveness of their leadership. Elections neither check nor balance: the people cannot express their feelings for its rulers through elections. At the same time, these rulers want to keep their power and business privileges (if not their own personal ones, then those of their power grouping).
It’s clear to me that the choice has been made in favour of clan (or class, or group) interests against the interests of Russia as a whole. Because change is precisely what Russia needs now. We have become involved in the global change process and, should we now lag behind, we will be stuck in the mud, we will become a basket case.
Marina Litvinovich, member of the Federal Council of the United Popular Front:
We in the UPF have issued a communiqué about the presidential address. The main idea in that speech was to see though some constitutional amendments following which there would be new presidential and, presumably, parliamentary elections. It seems clear that Vladimir Putin would stand in these elections, win them, and so entrench the Putin régime which we have already had for nine years now in Russia. We predict that it will entrench itself deeper and further. This is how they have decided to resolve the issue of a third term for which a constitutional amendment was needed. It is obvious now that Medvedev is a stop-gap, a placeholder for Putin and will relinquish his office back to him.
The speech also wanted to draw the public’s attention away from the economic crisis but, in our view, extending the presidential term will only make the crisis worse since the political perturbations that will inevitably ensure can only aggravate it.
Irina Yasina, head, Regional Journalism Club:
Medvedev’s proposal to extend the presidential term represents stagnation, a freezing of the régime. These people have clearly not realised that they are in the midst of a crisis. We can’t be sure that Obama will be able to overcome it. Maybe tour rulers will want off the bus in a year or two? But instead they’re saying: no, we’ll do the driving. They are too used to high oil prices and to having loads of money in the country and in their own pockets.
And why, pray, a six-year term? They can’t say why. In fact, they probably did a rough calculation and found that six-year terms will take them neatly up to retirement age. There should be really serious reasons of state for needing to change the president’s term of office. Perhaps there was? Then explain: we’ll understand if it’s properly explained. If you don’t explain, then we’ll start doing calculations based on pensionable ages…
As for saying all the right things about democracy, we’ve heard all that before from Putin! Words aren’t what matter now – reality is. And the reality today is that Sveta Bakhmina’s jailers have asked that she be left in peace. Her jailers – and not her lawyers or her relatives – speak for her!
It’s just as the wonderful [satyrical writer] Zhvanetsky said: “When you look up from the traditional university gown and see rising from it the face and head of the barmaid from the artillery college, somehow you don’t quite trust her Latin!”
* * *
And a couple of side-bar items:
Communiqué from website of Mikhail Kasyanov, leader of the Russian Popular Democratic Union:
The RF president’s address to the nation is seriously contradictory. Medvedev presents a correct estimation of the situation in the country, in particular with regards to the state of the country’s democratic institutions. However, he has not followed this thought through to its obvious conclusion.
He should have said that the constitutional system has been brought to nought. All his proposed innovations “to develop democracy” in the country are mere pretence and serve only to further reinforce the current state of affairs under which the government cannot be changed and citizens have no way of influencing it.
All the rest that was said about fighting corruption, purging the numbers of the bureaucrats and so on have been spoken by the government on numerous previous occasions and, as we have all been able to see, are empty statements.
As for the matter of extending the terms of the presidency and of the Duma, this is meaningless in the current situation to which our leaders have brought us. One can pretend to change presidents and parliaments once a year or once in 25 years – it makes no difference.
An item from Grani. ru entitled “Medvedev Address Makes Shares Plummet”
Russian stockmarket indices dropped sharply during the course of Russian president Dmitri Medvedev’s state of the nation address to the Federal Assembly. At 11:00, the Micex and RTS indices were 10% up on the previous day’s trading but by 13:00 the Micex was down to 2.56 up and the RTS to 3.35 up over the previous day.
Trading on Micex was stopped for an hour at 11:05 because of an over-sharp rise. When trading resumed at 12:05, it was to a sharp fall.
Dimitri Medvedev’s address to the Federal Assembly included a harsh accusation against the United States of America as being to blame for the world financial crisis and a call for the reform of the world financial system. The most important internal reform proposed by the president was for the extension of the presidential term to 6 years and of the Duma to five years.