Social issues expected to dominate Medvedev’s annual address to parliament

Dmitry Medvedev (RIA Novosti / Michail Klimentyev, Pool)
As the Russian president busily prepares his annual address to the Federal Assembly, the media is speculating about the main topics and offering “details” from anonymous sources.

The exact date of the president’s address has not been set. But Moskovsky Komsomolets daily speculates that Medvedev may address both houses of the Russian parliament on November 30.  

The head of state was to speak on November 22, the paper said, but the event was allegedly postponed due to the Russia-NATO Council’s summit in Lisbon. Its decisions may affect the content of part of the annual address regarding international relations and bilateral ties with other countries.

In any case, the document is almost complete, the paper reported, adding that as of today it consists of 53 pages.

The annual address will focus on social issues, a source in the Kremlin told the daily. According to another source, the document is likely to highlight wrong moves made in the economic policy and will stress the course for modernization.

In pursuing this course, a more important role may be given to regions, which should have their own modernization or investment programs. Governors’ work would be assessed according to several new criteria, including the effectiveness of such programs.   

“The modernization of the political system should be conducted simultaneously with that of the economic arena,” the paper said, commenting on the purported details of the address.

One of the key tasks remains the strengthening of the roles of parties. According to the sources, it may be suggested that a proportional election system should be widely used at municipal polls. Many leaders of opposition parties have spoken in favor of elections based on party lists during municipal elections.

The international part of the address will “declare a strategic course for closer ties with the European Union and the US,” the paper noted. But its sources said that the US may be criticized for “the unwillingness to completely abandon the deployment of missile defense shield in Europe.”

However, this part may be amended, as the issue will be discussed at the summit in Lisbon. It is still unclear how Russia may co-operate with the US or NATO in building a missile defense shield for Europe.

“The most important political document will be amended until the last moment,” Moskovsky Komsomolets said. The paper recalled that the first Medvedev’s address in 2008 contained proposal to expand the president’s term of office to six years, and that of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, to five years. Nobody knew about those “sensational proposals” the day before, the paper noted.    

On Tuesday, Vedomosti daily wrote that Medvedev’s address may include proposals regarding the new territorial division of the Russian Federation. Citing its sources in the government, the paper said the plan contained possible creation of 20 territorial “agglomerations” instead of the present 83 regions.

“Medvedev’s third annual address is being prepared in strict secrecy, which makes the political and business elite intrigued,” said another daily, Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Last autumn, the president first published his keynote article “Go Russia!” containing his vision of economic and political modernization of the country.

He also urged Russians to send their proposals that could be included in the annual address. Political parties put forward their initiatives and sent proposals to the presidential administration.      

A source “close to the Kremlin” told the paper it would be “unwise to repeat the way last year’s address was prepared.”

­Sergey Borisov, RT