United Russia hits back at Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev (RIA Novosti / STF)
In response to Mikhail Gorbachev's criticism of the ruling Medvedev-Putin tandem and the majority party, United Russia accused the ex-president of ruining the USSR and sniped at the pompous celebrations for his 80th birthday in London.

In an interview with Echo Moskvy radio station, the former Soviet leader said that the rather critical situation in the country could still be changed within five to six years. However, that would require fair parliamentary elections in December, a new coalition and new faces in Russian politics.

According to Gorbachev, the ruling United Russia party led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin cannot be relied on since it “is dragging us backwards”.

“It suits [Putin] because he wants to preserve the status quo and keep his hold on power,” the former president of the Soviet Union said. He blamed the current leadership for ignoring such problems as poverty, since compared to such developed countries as Austria, 96 percent of Russia's population is poor.

Gorbachev's opinion about Putin's new initiative – the creation of the All-Russian Popular Front movement – was also rather skeptical, stating that he would not support it. Just like the majority party, the new political movement “is pulling us backwards” or at least slowing down development.

The politician stressed that it is necessary to develop and modernize the country, to solve problems in the educational and healthcare systems. Those issues, as well as engendering democracy, should be a top priority for the state, In Russia, however, these processes are either frozen, or there is only an imitation of development.

The opposition also came under fire. Gorbachev believes “that everyone, including even the present-day Communists” are puppets of the ruling regime, “pocket parties” who work together in harmony, no matter what statements they make.

Speaking about President Dmitry Medvedev, Gorbachev called him a capable person, erudite and a good lawyer – “which means quite a lot”. At the same time, he probably is lacking in character or has some other weakness. The former Soviet leader expressed his doubts that Medvedev would be given a chance to develop his capabilities in tandem with Putin.

Gorbachev voiced the opinion that the ruling tandem – as a political construction – did not live up to the people's expectations. As to what exactly was expected from the two leaders working together, Gorbachev said it was “mutual control and spur”, and added that “we don't need tandems any more”.

Fair elections opening the door into politics for new and talented people would improve the situation in the country, and with a new team, Medevedev could possibly manifest himself better as a president, Gorbachev observed. With the current election system though, it would not be possible. The ex-president believes that Russia should return to having single-seat electoral districts and, also, go back to electing rather that appointing regional governors.

Finally, the country needs a strong, popular social-democratic party which, at the same time, would suit Russian business – primarily medium-sized ones. In Gorbachev's view, Russian politics needs a competition between projects rather than people. Also, a social-democratic project which could harmonize the “interests of people and politics, people and business, as well as the environment,” is among the highest priorities of the state.

The majority party fired back with criticism of Gorbachev's policies, blaming him for the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the ensuing economic crisis that brought the country to the brink of collapse.

“Let's think back to Mikhail Gorbachev's years in power and the decisions he was making…We lost the country that was called the Soviet Union. Then we nearly lost Russia when an economic crisis began which saw hundreds of thousands of enterprises cease working, people did not get paid for months, and some were attempting to dismantle the state bit by bit,” the acting Secretary of the United Russia General Council Board, Sergey Neverov, said in a statement posted on the party's official web-page.

He went on to say that it was only thanks to the firm policies pursued first by Vladimir Putin, and later Dmitry Medvedev, that the country was saved.

Gorbachev brought Russia close to losing its sovereignty, which to a large extent explains why he enjoys a lot more respect in the West than in his home country, Neverov observed, adding that the world doesn’t want to see a strong Russia.

He also noted that it would be a matter for a long discussion whether “a person who pompously celebrates his birthday in London can categorically state what the Russian people want or do not want”. People had their say on the issue when they supported Putin and United Russia through those difficult times when the state had to restore the economy and help the nation overcome poverty.

“Vladimir Putin managed to do it. Today he has set new goals. What is happening now is a huge step forward in the development of democracy and civil society,” Neverov stressed. He added that within the Popular Front, “with representatives from the whole of society, we are choosing candidates” for the country's legislative body.

Many new, interesting ideas on solving the problems that concern people are being voiced now. “This approach will help to form the power that would not only be of the people, but also efficient,” Neverov argued.