Accessibility links

Breaking News

Nudging The Kremlin Toward Reform

Nudging The Kremlin Toward Reform

By Robert Coalson

September 3, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The unsigned, regular Page 2 editorial in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" today was headlined, "The Duma Election Campaign Begins." It is a model of the way the newspaper advocates rational, evolutionary reform in a way clearly intended to avoid offending the authorities.

First, the editorial asserts that the next three months will see "a sharp political battle for seats in the Duma," belying the widely held view that the elections will be noncompetitive and highly managed. The piece then goes on to assert, as if it were to be taken for granted, that "the Kremlin has recognized that it is unnecessary to exercise total control over the lower house of parliament." Playing to the Kremlin's often-stated desire to present Russia in the best possible light on the international stage, the "Nezavisimaya gazeta" editorial points out that "some real conflict on tactical questions will not harm the image of the country abroad."

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" argues that the period of Unified Russia's dominance of the Duma was necessary to "fundamentally transform the political landscape," but that that process is now complete. What the Kremlin needs now, the editorial says, is a "representative parliament." Moreover, the Kremlin, according to the daily, realizes too that this is what it needs. The paper asserts, almost as if speaking for the Kremlin, that the authorities are now seeking a legislature comprised of parties representing a wide range of ideological positions. As a result, the paper argues that the Kremlin will not prevent "a market-oriented liberal party" from gaining seats in the new Duma.

The editorial is an artful example of the daily's approach toward nudging the Kremlin in the direction of liberal reform without rocking the boat in a way that risks unwanted attention from the powers that be.


RFE/RL's Russian Service coverage of the 2007 Duma elections

RFE/RL's Russian Service interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" owner and editor Konstantin Remchukov