Kremlin Opponents: “Hands off the Constitution”

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Opponents of the Kremlin are forming a movement to protect the Russian Constitution from an amendment to extend term limits, even as the proposed changes seem set to breeze through the legislature. The group, named Solidarity, intends to push back against a proposal by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, which would raise presidential term limits to six years. The move is widely seen by experts as a power play which could allow Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to return to power, either immediately or in 2012.

A national referendum is not required to make the proposed changes permanent. The legislation must be approved by two-thirds of the State Duma, then by three quarters of the Federation Council. If the law is then adopted by at least two-thirds of Russia’s regional legislatures, it will return to the president for signing.

Hands off the Constitution! [A statement from Solidarity, 11.06.2008]

Yesterday, the Russian authorities for the first time voiced an initiative to amend the Russian Constitution and extend their own term limits. Ironically, [the initiative] was raised by Dmitri Medvedev, who has been in office for less than half a year. In his post, [Medvedev] has not had time to achieve any visible results whatsoever, apart from the war with Georgia, confrontation with the civilized world and the country’s accelerating crawl into an economic crisis. He has certainly not merited raising the issue of extending his term.

We do not see any basis for extending term limits for the president and other government bodies. Amid heavy suppression of media freedoms and the political opposition, the country is still being deprived of the ability to openly look upon the governing power structure, and the lamentable results of its time in office . The most important of these are unheard-of corruption, uncontrollable inflation and growing economic problems. Objectively, these rulers have earned dismissal, not lifetime appointments.

In today’s conditions, we categorically oppose discussing any possible changes to the Russian Constitution. Amendments like this can only be discussed when democracy is restored in the country. Today, when the citizens are numbed by unbridled government propaganda; when independent sources of information are inaccessible to the majority of the population; when the ruling “parliament” is appointed by the Executive Branch and independent politicians do not have the chance to get their ideas across to wide segments of the public; any discussions of amending the Constitution will resemble profanity and farce, and the amendments themselves will easily be dragged through in a way convenient for the ruling faction.

By voicing their intent to extend their own terms, the Russian authorities prove only one thing– that they are interested in nothing other than the effective usurpation of power in the country for an indeterminate period. This contradicts the goals of democratizing the country, and the return of Russia to the European path of development.

We are against turning Russia into a backwards, third-world authoritarian regime, where the rulers remain in power for life through different pretexts. The main purpose of “Solidarity,” the united democratic movement we are creating, is the unification of Russia’s citizens, for the sake of restoring democracy, order and lawfulness in the country. The founding congress of the group will take place on December 13, 2008.

We call on all Russians who value freedom to join with the Solidarity movement. [Solidarity] will fight against the illegal actions of the ruling junta, whose intention to change our Constitution is aimed at usurping power and perpetuating their rule, which is calamitous for Russia’s interests.

Down with autocracy! Hands off the Constitution!

Members of the coordinating group for the founding congress of the Solidarity movement.

D. Bilunov
G. Kasparov
O. Kozlovsky
O. Kurnosova
V. Milov
B. Nemtsov
L. Ponomarev
M. Reznik
A. Ryklin
Yu. Samodurov
I. Yashin


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