Gorbachev calls for referendum to end Russia 'autocracy'

AFP , Saturday 28 Jan 2012

The ex-Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev calls for a referendum in Russia on constitutional reform to end the protest wave against the rule of Vladimir Putin

Gorbachev
Russian President Boris Yeltsin, right, with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev at a meeting following a failed Communist coup ‎attempt. Six days later, Mr. Gorbachev would step down from Soviet Parliament, where he had served as General Secretary, Aug. ‎‎23, 1991. (Photo:Reuters)‎

The Soviet Union's last leader Mikhail Gorbachev on Saturday called for a referendum in Russia on constitutional reform to end the "autocracy" that emerged under its current political system.

In proposals posted on the website of the opposition Novaya Gazeta newspaper that he part owns, Gorbachev said that the protest wave against the rule of Vladimir Putin showed people wanted change to the entire political system.

He said that Russia was in a "serious political crisis" that could also be seen as a "constitutional crisis" as the strongman rule under Putin had emerged under its post-Soviet constitution.

Russia, he said, should have a "new strong democratic party capable to take the initiative to renew the constitution."

He said that the path towards this would be the holding of a referendum which would ask Russians: "Do you support political and constitutional reform which would end autocracy and guarantee democracy?"

According to Gorbachev, the proposals set out by Putin for reform ahead of his candidacy in March presidential elections showed that he intended "to leave things as they are with just few corrections".

Gorbachev has called for Putin to quit politics and the holding of new polls to replace the parliament elected in the disputed December 4 legislative elections that sparked the protests.

The man who presided over the end of the Soviet Union two decades ago is hugely respected abroad but is still reviled by many in Russia for allowing the collapse of Moscow's former empire.

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