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Russian Politics in Review
December, 2007 - January, 2008

The following resource is meant to quickly introduce the reader to politics issues in Russia - with a focus on the upcoming elections, political parties, and political personages. This news review is part of SRAS's monthly "obzor" publications. For more reviews, see the newsletter for this corresponding month.

To receive the free monthly newsletter and obzori by email, simply sign up.  


General Analysis

Rankings Versus Reality
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where members of the 10,000 strong Saudi royal family find their way into every major deal, was ranked sixty spots ahead of Russia. This could lead a cynical Russian to ask whether the Heritage rankings are based on a country’s actual investment climate and success in global markets, or whether the country in question is a close ally of America. 

Russia Created Power Structure on French Model
Another scenario is that the legitimate diarchy will replace the one-man authority in the country. Indeed, Russia’s political vocabulary has been already enriched by the "Putin-Medvedev tandem" word combination.

The Year of Doubling the President
Analysts now have no choice but to believe another of Putin's promises: he is prepared to serve as prime minister "with no redistribution of powers between the institution of the presidency and the government itself." Even so, the maneuver that shifts the outgoing president to the office of prime minister may be regarded as a classic example of adapting democracy

A New Year Address to the Nation
As we see off the outgoing year, I want to sincerely thank you for everything that we have done together with you during the past eight years.

Russia's once and future rulers
At the beginning of 2000, I wrote a letter to Vladimir Putin. As a former Russian regional governor of Primorsky Kray, I had the right, the obligation and sincere desire to help the new man in office.

Tsar struck. Man of the year, or scandal of the decade?
Even without endorsing Mr Putin’s rule outright, Time largely swallows the Kremlin’s version of Russia’s past and present.

Putin-Medvedev duo "could run Russia until 2033"
Sergei Mironov, a Kremlin loyalist and the speaker of the Russian parliament's upper house, said Putin could become president again after a Medvedev term, serve two terms himself and then hand over once more to Medvedev.

New Year’s Fortune-Telling
Will 2008 Bring Any Change at All to the System?

Putin is the leader of a new era
By drawing a parallel between Putin and Vladimir Lenin, who led a revolution not only in Russia, but also in the entire world, we find many similarities between the two leaders.

Russian Political Parties: Boon or Bust?
What form should the government of a nation take if the political party is so powerful that it defines the whole existence of the country?


Youth Politics

The future’s ours: Russia’s youth activists
The Kremlin-backed youth organisation Nashi is fuelled by a potent mix of amnesia, idealism, nationalism, and the aura of power, finds Zygmunt Dzieciolowski in a journey between Moscow and its provincial heartlands.

Nashi partially disbanded
The administration is cutting the group’s budget, and has decided to fragment the base into several smaller projects. Kremlin experts believe that the group’s role in political life is on the wane, and that authorities have little need for it after the end of election season.

Alex Rodriguez, Russia stepping up intimidation of young dissidents
Oleg Kozlovsky has needled the Kremlin for two years... Now Russian authorities have finally found a way to silence him. They drafted him.


Polling Data

Which of these presidential candidates would you vote for if the election took place this Sunday?
(Decided Voters)
Dmitry Medvedev - 75%
Vladimir Zhirinovsky - 11%
Gennady Zyuganov - 10%
Mikhail Kasyanov - 2%
Boris Nemtsov - 2%

Source: Public Opinion Foundation

Methodology: Face-to-face interviews with 1,500 Russian adults, conducted on Dec. 23 and Dec. 24,
Angus Reid Global Monitor Margin of error is 3.6 per cent.

Civil Society

Russia denies U.S.-funded NGO chief on international wanted list
Manana Aslamazyan, a Russian citizen who headed the Educated Media Foundation, was charged after Russian customs officers discovered she had failed to declare foreign currency after a trip abroad. She was found to be in possession of approximately $2,800 more than the permitted sum of $10,000.

Daghestan Sliding Toward Chaos, Civil War
Daghestan, both in its capital city where people continue to demonstrate against the lack of electricity, heat and water in this coldest January in many years and in rural areas where Islamist groups continue to be active, is rapidly sliding toward the chaos of a civil war, according to a Moscow commentator.

The Social and Political Role of War Veterans
This is latest issue covered by the Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Society.

Some 80% of Russians certain Medvedev will be next president
53% of respondents said Medvedev would be able to handle his potential presidential duties, saying that he was "educated, cool-headed, fair, and hardworking." Three other presidential candidates, Zhirinovsky, Zyuganov, and Kasyanov received 11%, 9% and 4%, respectively, in this category of the poll.

Amnesty International Report 2007 on Russia
Human rights defenders and independent civil society came under increasing pressure. The authorities clamped down on the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Journalists were intimidated and attacked and one, Anna Politkovskaya, was killed.

Beslan mothers threaten to condemn Putin in court
Citing a strongly worded open letter issued by Golos Beslana in November 2005, prosecutors laid extremism charges against the group, which includes women who lost relatives in the siege.

Almost Two-Thirds of Russians Believe Democracy Best 
The poll, taken by Romir, the Gallup International Association’s exclusive representative in Russia, was conducted June 15-21 as part of Gallup International’s annual Voice of the People Survey, for which more than 60,000 people in 57 countries were surveyed.

Russian National Movement "Doesn't Exist,"
At present, a serious Russian National Movement "does not exist," is unlikely to win support from the population, and will not be able to challenge the Kremlin for power, according to someone who passed through the ranks of many groups that believed they could form the nucleus of such a movement.

Russia must find Chechnya's missing - Red Cross
The International Red Cross appealed to Russia on Wednesday to speed up work in discovering the fate of more than 1,000 people who have disappeared in war-torn North Caucasus over the last 20 years.


Elections: Medvedev

Medvedev Outpaced Putin in Presidential Rating
If the elections were held this Sunday, Medvedev would get more votes than Putin had in 2004.

German Press Reports of Medvedev Security Concerns 
Vladimir Putin's ordering of additional security to protect Dmitri Medvedev - a sign of the heightened concerns among competing factions within the Kremlin as the elections approach.

The man to push Putin aside
The consensus inside and outside Moscow is that this will make Mr Medvedev a stooge, but it won't. Not necessarily.

From the Catwalk to the Kremlin
Svetlana Medvedeva has the pedigree of a Russian paparazzi magnet, but the traditionally Russian first ladies have kept a low profile. The potential president’s wife may carve a new niche in the Kremlin.

Putin's Chosen Successor, Medvedev, Starts Campaign
Dmitry Medvedev, the candidate picked by Vladimir Putin to replace him as Russian president, opened his election campaign, touring the westernmost territory of Kaliningrad and the Arctic port of Murmansk.

Medvedev discusses importance of civic society for Russia
Russia’s First Deputy prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Tuesday he makes emphasis on long-term prospects for Russia’s smooth and civilized development.

Putin Choice Criticizes 'Legal Nihilism'
Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's presumed next president, criticized Russia's "legal nihilism" and called for stepping up the fight against corruption, opening his campaign Tuesday with a careful speech before a Kremlin-organized forum.

Russia's Medvedev says too hard-up to own a car
The only family transport is his wife's nine-year-old Volkswagen Golf, an official income declaration showed on Monday. 

Medvedev Proposes Creating Central Environmental Agency In Russia
Environmental issues dominated his trip to Chelyabinsk last week, Medvedev told the president. Industrial growth has started in the country, "new companies open, while old ones restore their lost capacities, and the environmental situation requires monitoring," the deputy prime minister said.

Medvedev’s presidential campaign and the growing social crisis in Russia 
With the end of the New Year holidays, the presidential campaign leading to Russia’s March 2 elections began in earnest.

Putin's Successor Lays Out Ambitious Plans, but Can he Deliver?
While Medvedev’s speech was received positively by a number of the civil society activists who attended the Civic Forum and other observers, some critics have raised doubts about whether Medvedev, who is almost certain to be elected president in March, will be able either to carry out these reforms.

Welfare the big idea for Russia's Medvedev
After a decade of rapid economic growth fired by the animal spirits of unfettered capitalism, Russia isn't about to turn back into a Soviet-style cradle-to-grave welfare state.

The Making Of A President
It is a clear fusion of administrative muscle and political ambition, and illustrates exactly why this vertical of power -- in which governors are directly dependent on the Kremlin -- was created in the first place.

Russia’s presidential candidate D. Medvedev and the Kremlin's "national projects"
The national projects were ostensibly designed to soften the destructive impact of the monetization of benefits. Enormous resources were devoted to the national projects. Where has this money gone, and where is it going?

Medvedev will Tighten the Screwsd
"Despite Medvedev’s liberal image, I believe that he will take the course of a further crackdown, not indulgence [or] a thaw."

Blanket Baby Coverage for Medvedev
While covering Medvedev's comments during the visit, the television reports did not carry a single remark by the Grigoryevs, giving the report the feel of a campaign announcement.


 Elections: Other Issues

Communist, LDPR leaders registered as candidates for president
The leaders of the ultranationalist LDPR party and the Communist Party are the first party nominees to be formally registered for Russia's presidential elections on March 2.

Doubt Cast on Duma Elections

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov sent a 17-page statement to the Prosecutor General's Office yesterday disputing the State Duma election results

Another Kremlin challenger drops out of Russian presidential race. 
Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister, said he was withdrawing so as not to split the vote with what he described as the only other remaining candidate from the liberal opposition, former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov.

Presidential Candidate from LDPR Richer Than the Candidate of Communists
Russia’s Central Election Commission has released data on the income and property of presidential candidate, leader of Communist Party Gennady Zyuganov and his spouse.

Some 400 observers to monitor Russian presidential election
The invitations will be sent out on January 28 after the registration of presidential candidates is completed.

Supreme Court Upheld Denial to Register Bukovsky Presidential Candidate
The Supreme Court of Russia has sustained the resolution of Central Election Commission denying to register Vladimir Bukovsky the presidential candidate, representatives of the court said.

Kasyanov could run if court overturns signature fraud ruling
Former prime minister Kasyanov was denied registration for the March 2 election last week, when the Central Election Commission (CEC) said over 13% of signatures he collected to support his presidential bid were faked or unverifiable.

Communist may pull out of Russia election
The head of Russia's biggest opposition party is considering dropping out of the race against Kremlin front-runner Dmitry Medvedev to be the next president, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.


Current Power Structures

Heavy fines to slow speeding Russians?
Bad drivers in Russia can now be jailed for up to 15 days, as part of a raft of changes designed to reduce around 30,000 road deaths each year.

Million-Plus Biometric Passports in 2008
"We expect to open new FMS branches, which will permit us to issue more than 1 million biometric passports in 2008."

"Kremlin turf war" moves into Russian court
The dispute between fund manager Oleg Shvartsman and arms exporter Rosoboronexport offered a rare public glimpse into infighting between the opaque groups around President Vladimir Putin as he prepares to hand over to a favored successor.

Kommersant rating of Russian elite
This year, Kommersant is presenting an elite rating in three dimensions – national, business and social and political.

New Committees And Chairs Named In Russian State Duma
The structure of the State Duma has been changed significantly. A list of the new Duma committees and their chairs can be found below. Please note that an official English translation of each committee name has not yet been released.

Russia's Public Chamber Organizes Second Civil Forum
The forum will discuss the 2007 annual report about the state of the civil society in the Russian Federation prepared by the Public Chamber, problems of the development of the civil society and support to public initiatives; issues of social control over the authorities at federal, regional and municipal levels; organisation of interaction of social forces and development of dialogue and equal partnership between the society and authorities in Russia.

Duma to Create Platform for Questioning Ministers
(8th Entry) The Duma plans to institute a regular "government hour," in which members of the executive branch will be invited to answer lawmakers' questions.

Putin Urges Adoption Of Laws On Simpler Probe Into Minor Offences
The president was specifically interested to know why those suspected of committing minor offences had to stay in detention centers for so long.

Putin's men 'lined pockets' from state funds.
Andrey Illarionov, a market reformer and Putin's economic advisor until his resignation two years ago, alleged that the Russian government's £75 billion Stabilisation Fund, created in 2004 to cushion the budget from a fall in oil prices, was being exploited by members of the ruling elite for their personal benefit.

VTsIOM Now Part of Kremlin's 'Propaganda Machine'
In a carefully documented story posted online yesterday entitled "Payment for Loyalty," Morar describes how the Presidential Administration has insisted on structuring surveys to get the results it wants and then rewarded VTsIOM leaders by allowing them to privatize state property, avoid paying taxes and send the profits to offshore banks.

PM outlines goals for next three years
Over the next three years, Zubkov said, the government would focus on raising living standards of the population and creating conditions for sustainable economic growth, as well as ensuring a balanced approach to regional development.

How Putin defeated 'terrorism' in Chechnya
Putin had to act quickly to impress the Russian public or risk becoming a footnote in history. His means to that end was Chechnya.

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