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Presidential think-tank publishes new “liberal manifesto”

Presidential think-tank publishes new “liberal manifesto”
If Dmitry Medvedev is elected to a second term as president, he stands a chance of genuinely modernizing Russia, according to some analysts' new report.

­Experts at the Institute of Contemporary Development (INSOR), where Medvedev chairs the Board of Trustees, believe that Russia may face “aggravating stagnation”, were this ambitious program not carried out. The report entitled “Finding the future. Strategy 2012, an outline” is an attempt to create an election program, “I hope, for President Medvedev,” INSOR’s head Igor Yurgens said on Tuesday. He hoped that the president would decide to run for a second term.

According to Yurgens, the report was not prepared on someone’s order and there was no pressure exerted on the authors. They assume that the next presidential cycle has the chance of becoming the start of “real modernization – deep and systemic.” If Russia passes up this chance, its lag in development “may become irreversible.”

Russia requires stepped-up modernization, though the current economic phase may offer different ways, leading to inertia, the report said. Russian democracy should be reset, the authors contend, adding that elections should be held at “all levels of political system.”

Actively developing institutions of direct democracy is important, but the INSOR analysts said the Russian leadership should send “strong signals to the bureaucracy to achieve the realization of the desired goals.”

The state as it is now is the main obstacle to the development, the report said. “Modernization begins with the overhauling the system of power and management.” The power structures should be reduced, and public revision of their economic activities is needed, the authors argue.  

In the field of defense and security, the main task is moving to all-volunteer armed forces by 2018. The modernized special services should protect people from real threats, including terrorist ones, the analysts said.

As far as foreign policy goes, the INSOR experts supported the creation of alliances that promote modernization, with the EU as one of the most important vectors. Also, forging a Eurasian economic union on the space of the Commonwealth of the Independent States should demonstrate Russia’s “soft power in action.”

Call for a ‘liberal’ future

A year ago, INSOR outlined its vision of Russia’s future in a 66-page report entitled “21st Century Russia: the Image of a Tomorrow We Want.” The think-tank proposed radical changes to the political system and a return to the liberal elements of President Boris Yeltsin’s policy. Although the report sparked a swift and heated discussion, it did not last long.   

Critics then said that the INSOR analysts had pictured “an image of an ideal Russia.” The authors suggested, in particular, cutting the presidential term to five years, while Medvedev had prolonged it to six years. He has also said that there would be no return to the gubernatorial elections in the near future.

On Tuesday, Yurgens pointed to a political force that could implement elements of the institute’s new report. He said the project of the Right Cause party could enter the stage if it was headed by a person like First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, or Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin, or Presidential Aide, Arkady Dvorkovich.    

The INSOR head, the member of the party’s supreme council, stressed, however, that it was his personal opinion.  He added that left-wing forces could also be interested in the 120 steps down the path to liberalization and modernization, listed in the report.