* Gorbachev accuses Putin of not offering political choices
* Says Medvedev's modernisation drive failing
By Denis Dyomkin
MOSCOW, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Former Soviet leader Mikhail
Gorbachev criticised Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Monday for
monopolising power in Russia and robbing the electorate of what
he says was a real democratic choice.
Putin, who ruled as president from 2000-2008, is widely seen
as Russia's paramount leader. He has said President Dmitry
Medvedev, whom he steered into the Kremlin three years ago, and
he will decide together who will stand in the March 2012
In some of Gorbachev's harshest criticism yet of the current
set up, he slammed Putin as "shameless" and accused him of
"conceit" in thinking he could decide Russia's elections.
"It is shameless ... such conceit is unbelievable,"
Gorbachev, whose bold reforms helped trigger the 1991 collapse
of the Soviet Union, told reporters.
"This is not Putin's business. It is the business of the
nation. It is the business of elections. It is the business of
those who will vote," he said.
"Are others not even allowed to run?"
Gorbachev joins a marginalised Russian opposition who accuse
Putin of wielding too much power, disregarding many freedoms and
not holding fair elections.
In the two decades since the Soviet collapse, Russia "has
come no more than half-way" on the path toward democracy,
"We have a parliament, courts, a president, a prime minister
... But you know that this is little more than imitation," he
Likening Putin's ruling United Russia party to the Soviet
Communist Party, Gorbachev said democratic institutions in
today's Russia were broken because the pro-Kremlin party
dominated in parliament.
"United Russia looks to me like the worst copy of the Soviet
Communist Party," he said, adding that such political monopolies
lead to "stagnation".
Gorbachev told Reuters last year that the Kremlin's economic
modernisation drive that Medvedev is championing would not
succeed without improvements in democracy and the electoral
Last week Gorbachev said the popular revolts in Egypt and
Tunisia were a warning to autocrats the world over.
(Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel)
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