Gorbachev has grown increasingly outspoken about Russia's vulnerabilities to Egypt-like unrest, warning in the past that Russia could collapse without sweeping democratic reforms. He describes Russia as a throwback to Soviet times, with muzzled media, sham elections, a Potemkin parliament, a Kremlin monopoly of power, and a corrupt ruling party that's a "bad copy" of the former Soviet Communist Party.
In a Moscow press conference Monday, Gorbachev slammed the political system built by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as an elaborate fraud. "We have everything – a parliament, courts, a president, and a prime minister, but these all are to a great extent just an imitation," he said. In another interview he said that Russia's democratic facade is a "cover for arbitrary rule and [official] abuse ... society has been broken, it's accepted the falsehoods."
Russia is heading into an intense political season, with regional polls next month, elections for a new Duma (parliament) in December, and a presidential vote in just over a year from a field that has not yet declared a single candidate.
Last week, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said Russia was not meeting economic growth targets and that foreign investment fell sharply in 2010, suggesting this is happening because Russia lacks sufficient democratic legitimacy to carry out needed reforms.