October 20, 2007
Mikhail Gorbachev, Russia’s last Soviet leader, has founded a new political movement to rid the country of “extreme political forces” and champion liberal values.A statement issued by the movement on Saturday said that “the potential for free democratic choice and political competition is being limited.
|Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev
Михаил Сергеевич Горбачёв
“This is why social-democrats are uniting to fight for the values of freedom and fairness.”
At the founding congress of the Union of Social-Democrats in central Moscow, Gorbachev told delegates: “We are putting our hopes in the efforts that [President Vladimir] Putin is making” to reform Russia.
Gorbachev was the last general secretary of the Communist Party and is widely detested at home where he is viewed as responsible for a period of political upheaval and economic collapse after the Soviet Union broke down in 1991.
Unlike Russia, the West credits Gorbachev with a major role in ending the Cold War and he is a frequent speaker at international events.
In a speech, Gorbachev praised Putin for not changing the country’s constitution to allow himself to run for a third consecutive term, when his period in office runs out next year.
“The president was under pressure and the fact that he did not give in to it is important from the point of view of democracy.”
Putin, unlike Gorbachev, remains very popular in Russia as he is seen to be the instigator of the country’s economic revival and with boosting Russia’s role in world affairs.
Russians are to elect a new president in March 2008. It is still unclear what role Putin could play in Russia’s political future and who his preferred successor might be.
Gorbachev’s new movement is not a political party and will therefore not take part in parliamentary elections in December.