Site map
0The virtual community for English-speaking expats and Russians
  Main page   Make it home   Expat card   Our partners   About the site   FAQ
Please log in:
To register  Forgotten your password?   
  Survival Guide   Calendars
  Phone Directory   Dining Out
  Employment   Going Out
  Real Estate   Children
   September 23
News Links
Business Calendar
Phone Directory
 Latest Articles
 Archived Articles
Analysis & Opinion
15.04.08 Unlimited Power
By Dmitry Babich

President Putin’s election to the position of chairman of the United Russia party creates an entirely new balance of power in Russia, where the president and members of the government were not part of any party since 1991. According to the changes introduced in United Russia’s statute on the eve of Putin’s election, the chairman will have virtually unlimited powers inside the party. He will be able to name candidates for all important positions inside United Russia’s top bodies, and to veto any decisions except the decisions of the party’s conventions. A chairman can be removed only by a two thirds majority vote at the party’s convention. Thus, as chairman of United Russia, Putin will in fact have personal control over the parliament, since United Russia has an absolute majority in the Duma, having received 64 percent of the vote during parliamentary elections in December 2007.

“The roots of the system, which was finally broken today, go back to 1991, when Boris Yeltsin was elected president of Russia, still a part of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Soviet Union,” said Alexei Makarkin, Vice President of the Moscow-based Center for Political Technologies (CPT) think tank. “At the time, Yeltsin’s main enemy was the Communist party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). So, Yeltsin then passed the so called de-partization decree, which banned parties from creating their cells inside government bodies or state-owned enterprises. The decree was aimed against CPSU, which had such cells almost everywhere. After the CPSU’s collapse, this system remained during the 1990s and most of the 2000s.”

Originally aimed at reducing the role of the communists, de-partization began hampering the development of a multiparty system in Russia, preventing the formation of party-based governments and minimizing the role of parties in politics in general.

“Until now, a party in Russia, even if it won a lot of seats in the Duma, had no chance of influencing the real government policy,” said Gennady Gudkov, one of the leaders of the Just Russia party, the smallest of the four parties represented in the State Duma. “There were no governments based on party principle, no government coalitions and, in the last few years, no parliamentary investigations. Having such a strong figure as Putin at the head of a parliamentary party can increase the importance of parties as an institution.”

Formally, Putin will acquire the powers of the chairman beginning May 7, when his successor Dmitry Medvedev is sworn into office, and he officially steps down from his position as president. However, while being the party’s chairman, Putin will not formally be its member.

“In a way, this fact reflects a very important reality,” said Sergei Brilyov, a former television anchor and a member of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy (SVOP), an NGO uniting Russia’s top experts on political and defense issues. “The relation between parties and top government figures in Russia is the opposite of what it is in Western Europe. There, a party wins elections and puts its leader into the government. In Russia, it is the president or some important government official who creates a party. Putin, a popular president, was the creator of United Russia and not vice versa.”

CPT’s Alexei Makarkin noted that when during the 1990s Russia’s “party of power” was Our Home is Russia, a party created by the then Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, the latter was formally not a party member neither.

“It is a paradox, but in Russia government officials do not like to head the parties they create themselves,” Makarkin said.

While unanimously voting Putin into chairmanship on Tuesday, United Russia’s convention strived to create an image of itself as “a party of all the people,” where discussions are possible and just about every current of political thought is represented. On the first day of the convention, the three most important United Russia’s discussion clubs held their meetings, marking three different groups inside the party, although UR’s members carefully avoided calling these groups “factions.”

The first club, the Center for Social-Conservative Policy (CSCP) is informally headed by Andrei Isayev, the chairman of the Duma committee on labor and social policy. The club prides itself on being United Russia’s “brain center,” especially on social issues. The second club, November 4, is informally called a liberal one, since it concentrates its discussions on issues of political freedoms and the rights of an individual. The third club, tentatively called a “State-Patriotic” one, is supposed to unite moderate nationalists.

It is worth noting that discussions at United Russia’s convention were preceded by a two-day- long assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy (SVOP) in the Lesnye Dali resort near Moscow. There, some of the leading United Russia figures shared their views with representatives of Russia’s expert community. Since discussions at United Russia’s convention were largely closed to the press, SVOP’s assembly was a rare opportunity to glimpse United Russia’s plans and hear the assessment of their feasibility. Some of these assessments, made by SVOP’s members, were indeed critical.

For example, commenting on United Russia’s plans to make Russia one of the five leading economies of the world by 2020, Sergei Vasilyev, a SVOP member and deputy chairman of Vneshekonombank, said that in 2015-2020, Russia will be producing about 3 percent of the world’s GDP, while housing about 2 percent of the world’s population. In Vasilyev’s opinion, the three leading economies of the world will keep producing 60 percent of the world’s GDP in 2015-2020. However, the names of these top three will change, as they will certainly include China, and, in a later period, probably India. The current leaders - the United States, the EU and Japan – will retain the leading positions in the world economy too. So, getting into the “big five” will be a problem for Russia.

The same critical mood persisted during SVOP’s discussions of foreign policy, where United Russia member and the chairman of the Duma committee on foreign affairs Konstantin Kosachev urged the government to concentrate on winning over public opinion of prospective NATO members Ukraine and Georgia, instead of alienating these countries’ population by threats to retarget Russia’s nuclear missiles at them.

Judging by SVOP’s assembly, discussions in United Russia will continue – but under a new chairman with virtually unlimited powers.
The source
Copyright © The Moscow Expat Site, 1999-2023Editor  Sales  Webmaster +7 (903) 722-38-02