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Dmitry Medvedevs Article, Go Russia! (September 10, 2009)

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Building Democracy

I also think that technological development is a priority public and political task because scientific and technological progress is inextricably linked with the progress of political systems. Experts believe that democracy originated in ancient Greece, but in those days there was no extensive democracy. Freedom was the privilege of a select minority. Full-fledged democracy that established universal suffrage and legal guarantees for the equality of all citizens before the law, so-called democracy for everyone emerged relatively recently, some eighty to one hundred years ago. Democracy occurred on a mass scale, not earlier than the mass production of the most necessary goods and services began. When the level of technological development of Western civilization made it possible to gain universal access to basic amenities: to education, health care and information. Every new invention which improves our quality of life provides us with an additional degree of freedom. It makes our existential conditions more comfortable and social relations more equitable. The more intelligent, smarter and efficient our economy is, the higher the level of our citizens welfare, and our political system and society as a whole will also be freer, fairer and more humane.

The growth of modern information technologies, something we will do our best to facilitate, gives us unprecedented opportunities for the realisation of fundamental political freedoms, such as freedom of speech and assembly. It allows us to identify and eliminate hotbeds of corruption. It gives us direct access to the site of almost any event. It facilitates the direct exchange of views and knowledge between people all around the world. Society is becoming more open and transparent than ever even if the ruling class does not necessarily like this.

Russia's political system will also be extremely open, flexible and internally complex. It will be adequate for a dynamic, active, transparent and multi-dimensional social structure. It will correspond to the political culture of free, secure, critical thinking, self-confident people. As in most democratic states, the leaders of the political struggle will be the parliamentary parties, which will periodically replace each other in power. The parties and the coalitions they make will choose the federal and regional executive authorities (and not vice versa). They will be responsible for nominating candidates for the post of president, regional governors and local authorities. They will have a long experience of civilized political competition: responsible and meaningful interaction with voters, inter-party cooperation and the search for compromises to resolve acute social problems. They will bring together in one political entity every element of society, citizens of all nationalities, the most diverse groups of people and territories of Russia endowed with ample powers.

The political system will be renewed and improved via the free competition of open political associations. There will be a cross-party consensus on strategic foreign policy issues, social stability, national security, the foundations of the constitutional order, the protection of the nation's sovereignty, the rights and freedoms of citizens, the protection of property rights, the rejection of extremism, support for civil society, all forms of self-organisation and self-government. A similar consensus exists in all modern democracies.

This year we started moving towards the creation of such a political system. Political parties were given additional opportunities to choose those occupying leadership positions in the federal regions and municipalities. We relaxed the formal requirements for the creation of new parties. We simplified the conditions in place for the nomination of candidates for election to the State Duma. We passed legislation guaranteeing equal access to public media for parliamentary parties. A number of other measures were adopted as well.

Not everyone is satisfied with the pace at which we are moving in this direction. They talk about the need to accelerate changes in the political system. And sometimes about going back to the democratic nineties. But it is inexcusable to return to a paralyzed country. So I want to disappoint the supporters of permanent revolution. We will not rush. Hasty and ill-considered political reforms have led to tragic consequences more than once in our history. They have pushed Russia to the brink of collapse. We cannot risk our social stability and endanger the safety of our citizens for the sake of abstract theories. We are not entitled to sacrifice stable life, even for the highest goals. In his time Confucius remarked: "Impatience in small matters destroys a great idea". We have all too often experienced this in the past. Reforms for the people, not the people for reform. At the same time this will displease those who are completely satisfied with the status quo. Those who are afraid and do not want change. Changes will take place, but they will be gradual, thought-through, and step-by-step. But they will nevertheless be steady and consistent.

Russian democracy will not merely copy foreign models. Civil society cannot be bought by foreign grants. Political culture will not be reconfigured as a simple imitation of the political traditions of advanced societies. An effective judicial system cannot be imported. Freedom is impossible to simply copy out of a book, even a very clever one. Of course we'll learn from other nations from their experiences, their successes and failures in developing democratic institutions. But no one will live our lives for us. Nobody is going to make us free, successful and responsible. Only our own experience of democratic endeavour will give us the right to say: we are free, we are responsible, we are successful.

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