Putin promises Russians bigger say in politics

Associated Press
In this photo taken on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin drinks tea as he speaks to amateur hockey players during a visit in the Perm region in the Ural Mountains, about 1500 kilometers (950 miles) east of Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Government Press Service)
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In this photo taken on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin drinks tea as he …

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is running for a third term as president, on Monday promised Russians a bigger say in politics amid the growing public discontent with his dominance of power.

In a campaign article published in the Kommersant daily on Monday, Putin said the government must turn around its institutions to accommodate the increasingly vocal grass roots.

"The quality of our public governance is lagging behind the willingness of civil society to take part in it," he said.

Putin, who was Russia's president in 2000-2008, is facing a wave of public discontent over widespread election fraud in the Dec. 4 parliamentary election.

Tens of thousands of people have rallied in Russian cities since December. Sunday's protest in Moscow drew as many as 120,000 people despite temperatures plummeting to 4 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 20 degrees Celsius).

Although he has not mentioned any concrete steps to allow a great public participation in state affairs, the prime minister stressed the need "to renew the mechanism of our democracy."

Putin also spoke in favor of a public discussion of key legislation and said that regional and municipal officials should have more freedom in budget policies and governance.

In response to the growing public frustration and anger with corrupt officials, Putin promised to bring changes to the bureaucratic system and eliminate the incentives for officials take bribes.

The Kommersant daily ran Putin's piece on its front page but accompanied the article with a fact box, listing steps and legislation passed under Putin to curtail democracy and put pressure on non-governmental organizations.

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