And so, the intrigue of the past several months has been solved. The incumbent Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will run for presidency, while President Dmitry Medvedev will lead the United Russia party’s candidate list at the December parliamentary polls. On Friday, the top managers of leading Russian TV channels – Rossiya 1, First Channel and NTV – Oleg Dobrodeyev, Konstantin Ernst and Vladimir Kulistikov received first-hand comment on this and other key issues from President Medvedev in person.
Why did you refuse to satisfy your ambitions to run for a second term? That was the first question to Mr. Medvedev.
“The main ambition for me is to be useful to my country and the people. It may sound a little bit pathos-like, but this is true. As for reasons… It was the United Russia party that put forward both Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, him before and me afterwards, for presidency. We represent the same political force.”
Let’s put it this way: should we, sharing the same political force and similar views, should we compete with each other? I read various opinions by politologists who wondered: “How come that, instead of coming out onto the political pitch and saying: we will keep arguing to the end, we will stage a competition!…” But let me say, there are no such things in any country. People sharing the same political force choose where and who should go. Can you imagine, say, President Barack Obama competing with Hillary Clinton? And they were both candidates for presidency, both from the Democratic Party, and they made their decisions, judging from who is capable of showing the best results. And we too have made our decision. It’s pleasant to see that the incumbent president maintains a high degree of trust, but on the other hand, let me point out that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is the most authoritative politician in our country at the moment – his rating is slightly higher.
Often, people expect us to have a spat and engage in active confrontation on the political scene. Let me say, don’t expect this. We want to win the elections – parliamentary in December and presidential in March – and not just satisfy our ambitions.
Dmitry Medvedev disagreed that the results of the December and March polls were predetermined. “The choice is made by the people… Any political figure can fail in an election, as can his political force…”, the president remarked.
“The decisions passed at the party convention are no more than the party’s recommendations to support two persons during the elections. The choice is made by the people, this is not empty words – that’s absolutely the way it is… Nobody is insured against anything. What predetermination?”
You know, if we, for example – let’s imagine for a moment that we reached an agreement with Gennady Andreyevich Zyuganov, Vladimir Volfovich Zhirinovsky, Sergei Mikhailovich Mironov that they stay away from the polls, and we, the great guys, will remain. In that case, this would be imitation. But they are not staying away. Let people decide whom to vote for, who has greater authority.
No sooner had one intrigue been solved when another one emerged – the resignation of Alexei Kudrin as finance minister. Was it about discipline or essential differences? Dmitry Medvedev’s answer was as follows:
“In Kudrin’s case, it’s about state discipline, nothing beyond that. We do not have a coalition government. Our country is not a parliamentary republic but a presidential one. Those who disagree should step aside. This is a tough position and I am determined to stick to it. I am sure that whoever leads the state will share the same principles.”
Speaking about Alexei Kudrin, I have the feeling that he has been in office for too long and perhaps he got bored. He came to me in February or March and said that he thought that there was no point for him to work in the future government – by the way, he knew nothing about our plans. So, I was surprised to hear all those statements. As for Alexei Kudrin himself – he is an experienced and good specialist. He will find a job and will be useful to the country.
Commenting on the situation around the Right Cause party and its former chairman Mikhail Prokhorov, President Dmitry Medvedev said:
“Speaking about Right Cause, unfortunately, they are chronically unlucky in not having responsible leaders. What happened lately has doubtless weakened the party. Let me remind you that I lead the candidate list of another party, so I will not comment on the situation in Right Cause and their problems. Just one thing: in my opinion, and this point of view coincides with the party’s view, our party is generous, as I said at the convention. Our parliament should reflect voter preferences of all Russian citizens: the opinions of the left, the centrists, the right, the conservatives, the democrats, in short, all whom people will vote for. Therefore, the legitimacy of a parliament in which all these forces are represented is considerably higher.”
As future prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev promised to continue his policy of reforms and modernization launched four years ago. There will be no stagnation, he said.
“It’s not only about stagnation. Stagnation is always dangerous and fraught with very unpleasant consequences. The point is that power should be capable of self-renewal. This can’t happen in leaps when everyone resigns. It’s about continuity when we understand who stays at the helm. There should be renewal, and a serious one. I was trying to ensure that this renewal is a permanent process. Over the past years, the past three years, nearly half of the governors’ corps has been replaced. And those weren’t just people of the retirement age but very different people. This should happen everywhere: in the governors’ corps, in the police, in municipalities, and of course, in the federal government. But you can’t shake the government like a pear-tree. I often get messages from people, saying: “Sack this minister immediately! It’s a shame that he is still in office after such an accident!” What needs to be understood is that not all accidents depend on ministers. Nevertheless, the government should undergo renewal.”
Asked whether he felt the pressure of the blogosphere on him, Dmitry Medvedev, an active Internet user, said:
“You know, had I felt this pressure in the direct meaning of this word, I would have found it very hard to be a president. But you are right – I do pay much attention to the Internet. Reactions to the United Russia convention, to the situation in the Right Cause party, to resignations – they are so different. While, some people say “it’s a disaster, the end of democracy”, others applaud and call for tougher action. The blogosphere reflects a difference in the positions of a great number of our people. Naturally, there are more young people than people of the middle age among Internet users. But it’s good that the Internet and the social networks react to all this. This is good.”
Dmitry Medvedev made clear that as long as he remained the incumbent head of state he would continue to actively perform his presidential duties. “I will not take any vacations or preoccupy myself with any separate election program. People should judge the president and the government from the way they work. This is also about democracy,” he said. “The upcoming election campaign will be tough and, I hope, politically correct. We have all necessary legal mechanisms for that,” he concluded.