Putin election manifesto vows reform, but too late for some Russians (+video)
Russia's President Putin promised to end police repression and give citizens legal outlets to challenge the government, but many people hear only empty rhetoric after years of oppression.
Vladimir Putin has published his first political manifesto in many years, pledging to end police repression, create special courts where citizens can challenge their government, and to seriously fight corruption.Skip to next paragraph
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It's probably no coincidence that Mr. Putin's charter has appeared exactly one month after tens of thousands of protesters hit the streets of Moscow to demand more democracy, greater transparency, and genuine accountability from their government.
However, several opposition leaders contacted today derided Putin's promises as empty rhetoric. Some noted that even though Putin had a full month to think about it, his manifesto, published on a special website dedicated to Putin's upcoming presidential run, still makes no mention of the protesters' specific complaints about electoral fraud and an over-controlled political system.
But it does appear to address some of their underlying grievances, particularly arbitrary police rule – especially directed against small business – and the inability of citizens to call out corrupt or abusive officials through the court system.
"We need to rethink the whole system of public security and put an end to the excessive use of repression" by police, Putin wrote. "This situation distorts our society and is making it morally unhealthy. The actions of law enforcement should be aimed at protecting and supporting legitimate business activities, not fighting them."
He pledged to create "administrative courts" that citizens can appeal to whenever they feel mistreated by authorities in matters small and large.
"We will create real mechanisms of peoples' control over the state, especially in areas that are most sensitive in terms of government corruption and inefficiency… The state should provide conditions to ensure the reliable protection of each Russian citizen. Every person should have the freedom of choice while freedom should be based on justice," he wrote.
Putin also pledged to reform Russia's squalid and overcrowded prison system, where suspects can languish in pre-trial detention indefinitely, and to raise public sector wages and pensions.
But even some of the comments appended to the "public discussion" section of Putin's website suggest that some Russians may consider Putin's desire to return to supreme power, after having served two terms as president in the past decade, as the central problem.