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    PUTIN'S ADMINISTRATIVE REFORM CATCHES RIGHTS UNAWARES

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    MOSCOW, September 16 (RIA Novosti) - The Union of Right Forces' Political Council has escaped a split by hair's breadth. Opinions clashed over President Vladimir Putin's election reform blueprints. "I haven't heard here whatever constructive criticisms of the President's ideas," Gleb Pavlovsky, top-notch political analyst and Effective Policy Foundation president, summed up the debates.

    "We could not introduce democracy and a free market at one fell swoop, so we ought to start from scratch now," Nikolai Travkin said to the council session.

    "What the President is proposing is a forced temporary retreat," Alexei Likhachev, MP, joined in.

    Certain council members, however, came down on the President's latest ideas. Boris Nemtsov, recent party co-president, was one of them.

    "If the bill of new gubernatorial election arrangements gets through, I shall join other citizens of conscience to appeal to the Constitutional Court-it must check constitutional compliance of the new law," he said to Novosti.

    Heated debates at last brought the party Federal Political Council to a statement. "To bury gubernatorial elections by direct ballot means not merely to bolster corruption but to rob the public of a chance for independent decision-making. It will widen the gap that yawns nowadays between the people and its rulers," says the document.

    As Rights see it, there is only one way for Russia to be victorious on its anti-terror cause-that is real consolidation of the rulers and the community. To achieve that unity, Russia needs genuine free elections, independent mass media, reinstated mutual confidence and normal contacts between the regime and the business world, efficient elective local self-government, a public dialogue of rulers and the opposition, fighting nationalism and xenophobia, and Russia's integration into the world.

    At about the time the Union of Right Forces, or SPS, was drawing its statement, several top-notch political experts complained to newsmen no serious criticisms of President Putin's ideas were coming up.

    "We don't see any serious oppositionary debates between the longer-established political parties," said Gleb Pavlovsky. The opposition has not advanced whatever practicable initiatives. "Shameful idleness!" he exclaimed.

    "Putin has made proposals to a community that is afraid to accept them. No alternative ideas of their own have come from the parties."

    Liberal political parties' electorate "no longer has confidence in its leaders, and gradually recedes to the Centre, while those leaders are evolving toward radicalism", Pavlovsky went on.

    What Russia needs, as he sees it, is unitary statehood and proportionate representation through elections. "I side with unitary state arrangements, and I oppose the idea of regions inherited from the Soviet years receiving a political status they never had-and which they should not have." Mr. Pavlovsky also spoke up for an extensive ethnic and cultural autonomy of Russia's areas.

    He regards what he calls "the Putin system" as a compromise between unitary and federal statehood.

    As Gleb Pavlovsky hopes, proportional representation will result, after several election campaigns, in political arrangements what will truly reflect public moods and convictions.

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