Russia's opposition should hold a dialogue with the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as the nation needs more political cooperation, rather than the existing vertical power structure, jailed former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky said in an article in The New Times magazine, published on Monday.
“The country needs a new political philosophy of cooperation instead of the vertical power structure,” Khodorkovsky told The New Times.
Widespread allegations of vote fraud in favor of Putin’s United Russia party at the December 4 parliamentary elections triggered the largest anti-government protests in Moscow for almost two decades. The next major public protest calling for fair presidential elections is scheduled for February 4.
Some political experts view Khodorkovsky's appeal as having little potential for promoting compromise between the opposition and the Kremlin.
“A dialogue between Putin and opposition will inevitably lead to a conflict. Putin will be unlikely to bow out, and it will result in a new wave of conflict,” said Alexei Mukhin of the Moscow-based Center for Political Information think tank.
Mukhin said Khodorkovsky’s proposal was a challenge to Putin, who is now especially sensitive to any demands from the opposition during his presidential campaign.
Putin himself has said he is ready to meet the opposition, but has questioned who their leaders are and what they actually want.
Another political analyst, Stanislav Belkovsky, thinks Khodorkovsky’s calls for talks with Putin have some basis, as “the premier is currently making concessions” to the opposition.
“Putin is behind everything happening now, including the liberal reforms proposed by President Dmitry Medvedev in mid-December,” Belkovsky said. Any talks between the opposition and Putin must put pressure on him, but also have a firm agenda for a new liberal reality in Russia, he said.
During his final state-of-the-nation address in late December, President Medvedev proposed bold measures to reform Russia’s political system, including the return of direct elections for regional governors that were abolished in 2004 by the then President Putin. He also proposed creation of a public TV network not directly influenced by the Kremlin, and easing the rules for the registration of presidential candidates and political parties.
The Kremlin insisted the proposals were not linked to December’s mass opposition protests.