Kudrin’s 2 cents: Ex finance minister urges opposition-government dialogue

Former Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin addresses an authorized opposition rally "For Fair Election" on Sakharov Avenue, Moscow (AFP Photo / Alexander Vilf)
Erstwhile Russian finance minister Aleksey Kudrin has come up with his own program for overcoming the current political standoff and is ready to become a mediator between the protesters and the authorities.

Kudrin believes dialogue between the protesters and the power base is possible, he said in an interview with Vedomosti daily.

On Saturday, Kudrin made a surprise appearance at the biggest protest rally in Moscow in about 20 years. Tens of thousands of participants demanded fair elections, jeered the Kremlin, and chanted slogans against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Along with opposition leaders and other critics of the government, Kudrin addressed the crowd with a speech. He stressed that a broad political reform and amendments to the law on elections and registration of parties recently suggested by President Dmitry Medvedev should first be discussed with the opposition. Then, new parties should be created and an early State Duma vote should be held next year.

Kudrin agreed with protesters over the violations during the December 4 vote and that the head of the Central Election Commission Vladimir Churov should be dismissed. The protesters, however, were not terribly excited by the appeal and booed the former minister, who Putin recently called “my long-standing friend.”

Explaining the reason behind his decision to turn up at the December 24 demonstration, Kudrin told Vedomosti that he is worried about the events in the country.

“I’ve analyzed them: everything that took place before and after the rally on Bolotnaya [Square], Putin’s live Q&A, Medvedev’s address [to the Federal Assembly,” he said.

“I realized that both sides – the protesters’ demands and Medvedev’s political initiatives – have shortcomings. The rally demands the annulling of election results, but doesn’t consider how the country would live without a parliament. Medvedev, for his part, submitted his proposals without any public debate,” Kudrin pointed out.

The ex-minister stressed that instability must be prevented and ideas proposed by both sides should be discussed and adjusted.

Kudrin observed that completely different people – from students and teachers to clerks and businessmen – came to last Saturday’s meeting on Akademika Sakharova Boulevard. He noted that the members of rally’s organizing committee said that a dialogue with the authorities is possible. Kudrin urged the creation of a group of negotiators and drafting a list of demands to be put on the negotiating table.

Explaining his confidence over the leadership’s readiness to listen to protesters, Kudrin said he drew such conclusions after discussing the matter with Putin prior to the demonstration.

The ex finance chief stressed though that he himself made the decision to come to the rally and make an appeal, and underlined that Putin did not authorize him to become a negotiator. Kudrin noted that he is happy with his current independent position, would not want to lose it and if the sides manage to iron out differences without his help, he would only be glad.

Aleksey Kudrin noted that the main point of the rally was a demand for fair elections and even the protesters agree that whoever wins in a fair battle should rule the country.

“As I understood from the conversation with Putin, he is not afraid of the March 4 [presidential] vote and is ready to take all necessary measures in order to hold the elections fairly. I think this should be used in order to hold a model poll on March 4,” Kudrin concluded.