MOSCOW (AP) — Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has promised that Russia’s government will become more accountable to its people, if he wins a third presidential term in March.
In laying out his priorities for the future on a campaign website that went online Thursday, Putin appeared to be trying to reclaim the initiative from Russians who are protesting corruption and his centralized, top-down rule.
Some of the priorities match the agenda that was set by President Dmitry Medvedev when he took over from Putin in 2008, including fighting corruption, improving the investment climate and modernizing the economy. In his campaign program, Putin acknowledged that these issues remain among Russia’s biggest challenges.
Putin promised to increase public control over spheres that he admitted are most prone to corruption: government contracts, road construction, municipal services and law enforcement.
He proposed creating administrative courts to hear citizens’ complaints against the government, which he said would make it easier for people to have their voices heard.
“We need to rethink the whole system of protecting public interests and reject its focus on repression,” Putin’s campaign platform said.
During Putin’s 12-year tenure as president and prime minister, Russia’s parliament and courts have often acted as instruments of Kremlin power rather than independent branches of government. Opposition leaders have been marginalized and their protests routinely broken up by police.
Today’s protest movement gathered force last month after a parliamentary election that observers said was blatantly rigged in favor of Putin’s party. Putin, who has been in power since 2000, is still expected to win the March 4 election.
In a poll by the independent Levada Center released Thursday, 42 percent of those questioned said they intend to vote for Putin, while only 9 percent favored any of his handful of competitors. Putin, however, would need to get more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff election.
The poll of 1,600 people was conducted across Russia on Dec. 16-20, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
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