Tuesday, January 12, 2016

United Russia Doesn’t Have Program for the Future, But Non-Russian Groups Do

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 12 – There are many parallels between Russia today and Russia in the past. One of the most intriguing is that now, as in 1990-1991, politicians in Moscow are increasingly unable to offer any program for the future while activists in many of the non-Russian republics have clearly developed ones.

            That divide, one that may again cut support for the center while boosting it for the republics just as at the end of the Soviet period, is highlighted this week by two announcements. United Russia says it won’t make any promises because it can’t see clearly what is going to occur in the future, but the Karelian Republic Movement has issued a detailed program.

            The RBC portal reports today cites as Kremlin source as saying that the ruling United Russia Party will avoid making any specific promises in the election campaign at least until June 2016.  “It it is not very clear what can be promised and therefore [that] document will be abstract,” he says (rbc.ru/politics/12/01/2016/5693dc3c9a7947aaeec9977c).
                Further, the source indicated, local candidates will make “programmatic proposals” with “the most interesting of these” being included in the pre-election program. It is important to stress, he said, that ‘precisely these people from the lower levels will propose the programmatic theses.” While he did not say so, that could further fragment the party of power.
            In previous elections, United Russia has simply used the statements of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev as its program.
            An example of a republic-based group that says it is “obligated to present its program for the elections” and has done so is the Karelian Republic Movement.  In a new year’s address to the people of that republic, it says that it will continue to “seek to establish real federal relations between the center and the regions” (free-karelia.org/Menu.aspx?book=texts/160104news.html).
            The movement says that it will continue to “stand for the implementation of the letter and spirit of the basic law of our country, which defends the rights of the multi-national population of the country through the existence of national republics,” which in turn “are called on in the first instance to defend, support and develop the national uniqueness, traditions, culture and language of the native population that lives in them.”
            “We see,” it continues, “that in recent times bureaucrats are trying to emasculate the Constitution of the country by violating some laws and adopting others which contribute to the harming of the rights of the indigenous nationalities.”
            Moscow is now so arranging things that the republics lack the resources to do what needs to be done and instead are forced to send their natural resources and the profits of their enterprises to people in Moscow and St. Petersburg rather than to keep it at home, the movement says.

            “But we also know,” it continues, “that if the population of the republic supports its national and regional elites and these elites in turn are interested I having the republic and its citizens develop and become richer, then this will give a good chance to defend their rights and demand that the bureaucrats fulfil federal law.”
            An example of Moscow’s overreach and anti-constitutional actions is the Russian law that blocks republics from calling their top official president, even when support for this is “very strong” among the local population as in Tatarstan. Other republics can learn from its actions and not fall victim to “the illegal intimidation of the bureaucrats from Moscow.”
            The Karelian Republic Movement believes that officials at all levels and in all branches of power should be elected. “The people of Karelia must have the right to choose both the legislative powers of cities, villages, districts, and republics, as well as the heads of executive power, mayors, heads of districts, and also the head of the Republic of Karelia.”
            People in these positions must be responsible “to the people who elected them and not to the bureaucrats and politicians from parties which ignore the federal system of the Russian Federation,” the movement declares. And it will seek a revision of the tax system so that the majority of money raised in a republic will stay there.

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