August 24th, 2016 - Fort Russ News -
RT - by Inessa Sinchougova
Alevtina Rapatsevich became known as “Putin’s babushka” after her conversation with the President, at his annual Q&A conference in 2013. The woman complained of having been treated unfairly by the authorities, after she was refused an appointment with the Mayor of her town (Mr. Dvorokovsky.) Her account is a little unclear but it suggests that she did get an appointment in the end, and simply came to tell the President about her ordeal!
After the Conference, the local newspaper in Omsk reported that both the Mayor (Dvorokovsky) and the Prosecutor General (Chaika) of the town became highly alarmed at this very public complaint, in relation to their work. Mrs. Rapatsevich was immediately invited to speak to them both in regard to her concerns.
I selected this outtake because many people are under the impression that the guests are “hand-picked” to “ask the right questions” at the President’s annual Q&A sessions. It is true that one has to register to attend, and then receive an invitation.
Sometimes, the more technical questions are researched in advance (if for example, specific figures are required) and others are answered spontaneously. The point is not to test the President on his knowledge of all the subjects under the sun, but to adequately address the concerns being put forward by the citizens. Some questions he doesn’t know the answer to – and you will see him scribbling details to give to his staff for actioning later. This suggests that he did not know about the question, and was not able to prepare for it.
You can see that the person asking the question is simply being themselves, not in any way “staged” or “placed there.” The President is thus accessible to every Russian citizen, and when you consider the size of the country – this is quite an achievement. Conferences are also not limited to Moscow, smaller and topic-specific conferences take place through-out the country. Putin’s Q&A sessions demonstrate more transparency, approachability and accountability than any Western leader – but do send me your suggestions if you think I’m wrong!
This communication approach is not the same as visiting a Member of Parliament’s office, in any given constituency in a Parliamentary Democracy. There, the answers are drafted by the Ministry in charge, and not the President/Prime Minister personally. Very rarely would the Head of State get a glimpse of the response a constituent is receiving, unless it is highly media sensitive (in which case it’s probably so watered down that it beats the point of asking).
Putin’s annual Q&A sessions began in 2001, and were a deliberate strategy employed by the President to develop a rapport with the Russian people. So, if that’s the definition of a “tyrant”, as Putin is often described in the West, well then we will take it.
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