According to a report in Kommersant, Medvedev told journalists in Izhevsk on November 18 that he has been thinking about how to "correct" the constitution for years.
Now that he finally has the very real chance to do so, the Kremlin leader decided to tip his hand. Medvedev said the constitution is not "a set of canonical principles given from above." Saying that "the legal rights of citizens" enshrined in the constitution must maintained, but added that "arrangement of the political system" are of "secondary importance."
Well that was blunt -- but not surprising, since his proposed constitutional changes extending the president's term to six years are expected to easily enacted.
Apparently Medvedev has not considered that the "rights of citizens" and the "arrangement of the political system" are closely related to each other.
Or more likely, as Paul Goble notes on his blog, he just doesn't care:
"Medvedev’s remarks yesterday suggest that he sees the current Russian Constitution in much the same way as his Soviet predecessors saw theirs, as an ideological statement that is not supreme relative to other laws but rather as “a basic law” open to change almost at will and in much the same way as other legislation. And to the extent that reading of his view is correct, Russia under Medvedev is not as committed to observing a law-based state as many have thought but rather is continuing the retreat begun by Vladimir Putin from a constitutionally-defined political system that Boris Yeltsin at least had supported."
Goble goes on to note that in stark contrast to Medvedev's claim "that the rights guaranteed by the Constitution must remain in place," officials in Izhevsk were preventing people from exercising them. On November 17, a day before Medvedev's visit, local officials tried to prevent a demonstration calling "for the immediate replacement of Udmurt President Aleksandr Volkov and a change in the firm that provides heat for their apartments."
-- Brian Whitmore