Kremlin warns against wrecking Russia with democracy

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Oct. 26, 2009, 7:47 p.m. | Russia and former Soviet Union — by Redjeb Jordania
MOSCOW, Oct 26 (Reuters) - The Kremlin's chief political strategist warned in an article published on Monday that Russia risked collapsing into chaos if officials tried to tinker with the political system by flirting with liberal reforms. Kremlin Deputy Chief of Staff Vladislav Surkov said it was clear Russia was falling behind in many areas of economic development and that the country could not simply continue being a "resource power".

But in answer to calls from opponents for democratic reforms to liberalise the political system built under former President Vladimir Putin, Surkov warned that the resulting instability could rip Russia apart.

"Even now when power is rather consolidated and ordered, many projects are very slow and difficult," Surkov was quoted as saying by the Itogi weekly magazine.

"If we add any sort of political instability to that then our development would simply be paralysed. There would be a lot of demagoguery, a lot of empty talk, a lot of lobbying and ripping Russia to pieces, but no development."

As the Kremlin's point man on domestic politics, Surkov rarely speaks in public.

Surkov, 45, is viewed by diplomats and investors as one of Russia's most powerful officials and is credited with helping Putin to craft the Kremlin's centralised political system after the chaos of the 1990s.

He worked for Putin's entire eight-year presidency in the Kremlin as a deputy chief of staff and continued under Putin's protege, President Dmitry Medvedev.

Medvedev, who took power in May 2008, has repeatedly stressed the need for Russia to open up and modernise its political system.

But opponents say he has made few changes to the tightly controlled system he inherited from Putin, who continues to serve as prime minister.

After disputed Oct. 11 regional elections, which official results showed Putin's United Russia party won with a landslide, opposition parties have called for electoral reforms and a rerun of the vote.

"We must not confuse liberal, democratic society with chaos and disorder," Surkov said, adding that Russia should avoid the excesses of both Chinese leader Mao Zedong and Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

"Though Mao Zedong said that a lot of chaos results in a lot of order, he probably meant that tough or even totalitarian regimes are born from ruins. We do not need that. We do not need a Pinochet," Surkov said.

Surkov graduated in economics and served in the Soviet army before working as a public relations and advertising consultant in the 1990s, including for tycoons such as Mikhail Fridman and the now disgraced oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

"We must understand that authority that is unconsolidated and unbalanced (and) weak democratic institutions are unable to ensure an economic revival," Surkov said.
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