Medvedev Needs the Other Kind of Party

In response to the news that President Dmitry Medvedev may be pursuing the formation of a new political party to support his modernization agenda, Vladimir Frolov has a new piece arguing that he needs a different kind of party, of the “tea” variety.  The suggestion that modernization and liberalization in Russia needs to be more than just a top-down process and must be supported by a genuine social movement has also been made by Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Medvedev does need a political instrument to marshal public support for his modernization efforts. He has to shed the perception of a political loner, a detached and techie president who promotes his visions through his blog. At some point, he will have to fight for his agenda by leading a political party in national elections.

Were a Medvedev party to corral public support and do well in theState Duma elections of 2011, it would put him in a strong position toseek reelection for a second term in 2012. But this is precisely theargument for going slow on forming a Medvedev party right now. It wouldamount to a declaration of war on Putin. Signaling the end oftandemocracy, it would split the Russian elites and marshal in a newperiod of political instability that the country can ill afford. In theend, it would delay, not expedite, Medvedev’s modernization program.

Nor should he build a party the old-fashioned way — from the topdown.

Instead, Medvedev should start a serious dialogue on how to regainthe country’s competitive edge. A good article or speech is not enough.Medvedev will have to engage personally in meetings across the country.