Medvedev vows bold political reforms in swan song

President Dmitry Medvedev vowed that Russia would not allow the West to manipulate its citizens over alleged rigging of parliamentary polls.

Updated: Dec 22, 2011, 18:27 PM IST

Moscow: President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday
vowed that Russia would not allow the West to "manipulate" its
citizens over alleged rigging of parliamentary polls, even as
he promised political reforms like direct elections of
governors, abolished by his mentor Vladimir Putin.

"Attempts to manipulate Russian citizens, lead them
astray and incite strife in society are unacceptable," he
said, in his last annual address to the nation before his
expected handover of power to Putin next year.

The reforms proposed by Medvedev included the creation of
a "public" TV channel free from state influence.

Medvedev sought bold political reforms. He has proposed
reinstating direct elections of regional governors, in a
far-reaching plan for political reform, the BBC reported.

Direct elections were abolished by his predecessor Putin
in 2004, since when the governors have been Kremlin
appointees. Medvedev was addressing the full Russian
parliament, live on television.

"We will not allow provocateurs and extremists to drag
society into their schemes, he said. We will not allow
interference from outside in our internal affairs," he added.
"Russia needs democracy and not chaos," Medvedev said.

His speech comes after tens of thousands of people
demonstrated in Moscow over alleged election abuses.

"We must give all active citizens the opportunity to take
part in political life," Medvedev said in his state of the
nation speech - the last such speech before he steps down next
March. The procedure for registering political parties must be
simplified, he continued.

Certainly these proposals would have been agreed with
Putin, who talked about some of these things in his TV
phone-in last week. Putin mentioned direct elections for
regional governor and said it was important for the president
to act as a filter. But the devil is in the detail.

"The presidential elections [next year] must be honest,
transparent, responding to the requirements of legality and
justice," he said.

But he warned that "provocateurs and extremists" would
not be allowed to create divisions in society, the BBC

Another big opposition demonstration is expected on
Saturday, amid continuing demands for a re-run of the
December 4 parliamentary election.

The ruling party, United Russia, lost a quarter of its
seats in the vote - a big slump in its support.

Medvedev proposed the creation of a "public" television
channel free from state influence.

"None of the owners of this new media outlet should have
a determining influence on any decision-making - neither the
state nor a private owner," he said.

Russia`s main television channels and many other media
outlets are state-controlled. Critics accuse them of playing
down the opposition protests.

United Russia obtained 238 seats in the 450-seat State
Duma in polls, down sharply from the 315 seats it won
in the last polls in 2007.

Medvedev also said he would introduce a draft law to
change the system for registering a political party.

Registration would require the signatures of 500 people
from at least half of all the country`s regions. Currently the
requirement is 40,000 signatures.

He also proposed that presidential candidates would need
300,000 signatures to register, instead of the current
requirement of two million.

Party candidates in elections would require 100,000
signatures, instead of the current two million.