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Can Russia Become a Parliamentary Republic?

It appears the answer to this question depends on the audience. The Harvard historian Prof. Richard Pipes has a letter published in today’s FT pointing out two very different statements made by president-elect Dmitry Medvedev with regard to Russia’s ability to function as a parliamentary republic.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Two statements hard to reconcile in today’s Russia From Prof Richard Pipes Sir, Quentin Peel (“Soviet echoes only with sharper suits,” April 16) quotes Dmitry Medvedev, the recently elected Russian president, to the effect that the new arrangement by virtue of which Vladimir Putin will be both prime minister and head of the United Russia party will “strengthen co-operation between the legislature and the executive. The government will rely on parliamentary support”.

Yet barely two months ago, in an interview with the journal Itogi, the same Dmitry Medvedev said: “Should Russia become a parliamentary republic it will disappear . . . This is my profound conviction . . . Russia was always built around a rigid executive vertical line.” By this he meant that political decisions in Russia had to flow from the executive downwards; ie, that rather than “co-operate” with the executive, the legislature had to take orders from it.Like so much else that emanates from Russia these days, these two statements are difficult to reconcile.Richard Pipes,Cambridge, MA 02138, US