Putin And United Russia: Married Without Children

The election of President Vladimir Putin as the chairman of United Russia crowns the long-lasting relationship between the two.  They are like sweethearts who have finally gotten married after years of romance and courtship.  Will this union produce anything more substantive than professions of mutual admiration?  We shall see.  For now, it is what it is: a marriage without children.

United Russia was created in 2001 — by merging two pro-Kremlin parties, Yedinstvo and Fatherland-All Russia — as a vehicle to promote Putin’s political and economic agenda.  It was a brilliant tactical move: the newly-born structure has put to an end the Communist Party‘s domination in the Duma.

Yet, the long-term survival of United Russia wasn’t a sure deal.  Too many people with too many different views have gathered under the same roof for a simple ideological denominator to be easily found.

Indeed, the ideological "schism" within the party boiled over in the spring of 2005 when 21 United Russia’s "liberals" issued a manifesto demanding to jump-start stalled economic and political reforms.  Two days later, the "liberals" were confronted by the "social conservatives" who advocated a more cautious approach.  Soon, it became clear that the "social conservatives" enjoyed the full support of the United Russia chairman, Boris Gryzlov.

The "liberal revolt" threatened to split the party in factions ("wings") and it was promptly squelched by the party leadership.  Addressing a party meeting shortly after, Gryzlov famously noted that "the Bears [United Russia’s nickname] don’t need wings." 

Putin was conspicuously absent from the discussion.  However, as I speculated back then, he had been the principal beneficiary of the suppressing the dissent.  It appeared that by spring 2005, Putin had made a decision not to run for the third presidential term and wanted to take advantage of United Russia in his future political life.  He therefore needed United Russia united.   

It was approximately around the same time that Putin realized that United Russia had undertaken an unpleasant change: it had morphed from a party “of Putin” into a party of the omnipotent Russian bureaucracy.  Shocked by the street protests against poorly implemented social reforms in January 2005, United Russia had lost all appetite for reforms.  Instead, it focused on legislation making impossible for the opposition to challenge its domination in the Duma election.

Putin didn’t hold back in expressing his displeasure.  At a news conference in January 2006, Putin insulted United Russia by denying it a status of a "stable political party."  He then added to the insult by blessing the creation of another pro-Kremlin party, Fair Russia, headed by his confidant and friend, Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov.

There is little reason to believe that Putin fell victim to a Frankenstein syndrome. Rather, his criticism of United Russia — totally dependent on Putin’s personal popularity — was meant to keep leverage over the increasingly influential and self-confident "partner."

By the end of 2006, United Russia — being in control of 63 of 88 regional parliaments and counting about 70 regional governors as its members — possessed the best election machine in the country.  With the 2008 presidential power transition obviously on his mind, Putin understood that no candidate, including his "successor", would win the presidential election without explicit United Russia support.

Apparently, United Russia had no objections to supporting Putin’s choice, but it had its own pet idea, "party government", interpreted as a right for the largest faction in the Duma (read, United Russia) to nominate the prime-minister.  This would allow the "edinorosses" to better lobby the interests of the industrial and financial groups standing behind the party.

Putin initially opposed the idea, but as I argued in October 2006, he has eventually decided to strike a deal: United Russia’s support of his "successor" in exchange for "party government" for United Russia.

The following events have shown that both sides kept their parts of the bargain.  Putin took the number one spot on the United Russia party list in the December 2007 parliamentary election and has led the party to the constitutional majority in the Duma.  United Russia then nominated Putin’s choice, Dmitry Medvedev, as a candidate for president.  Medvedev promptly promised that, if elected, he would nominate Putin for prime-minister.

On April 15, 2008, a month after Medvedev’s landslide victory in the presidential election, Putin accepted the position as the United Russia chairman.  On May 8, the day after Medvedev’s inauguration, he’ll be confirmed as the prime minister by the Duma.  As the prime-minister and the United Russia leader, he’ll have a chance to form the first post-Communist "party government." 

Now what? 

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Putin And United Russia: Married Without Children

The election of President Vladimir Putin as the chairman of United Russia crowns the long-lasting relationship between the two.  They are like sweethearts who have finally gotten married after years of romance and courtship.  Will this union produce anything more substantive than professions of mutual admiration?  We shall see.  For now, it is what it is: a marriage without children.

United Russia was created in 2001 — by merging two pro-Kremlin parties, Yedinstvo and Fatherland-All Russia — as a vehicle to promote Putin’s political and economic agenda.  It was a brilliant tactical move: the newly-born structure has put to an end the Communist Party‘s domination in the Duma.

Yet, the long-term survival of United Russia wasn’t a sure deal.  Too many people with too many different views have gathered under the same roof for a simple ideological denominator to be easily found.

Indeed, the ideological "schism" within the party boiled over in the spring of 2005 when 21 United Russia’s "liberals" issued a manifesto demanding to jump-start stalled economic and political reforms.  Two days later, the "liberals" were confronted by the "social conservatives" who advocated a more cautious approach.  Soon, it became clear that the "social conservatives" enjoyed the full support of the United Russia chairman, Boris Gryzlov.

The "liberal revolt" threatened to split the party in factions ("wings") and it was promptly squelched by the party leadership.  Addressing a party meeting shortly after, Gryzlov famously noted that "the Bears [United Russia’s nickname] don’t need wings." 

Putin was conspicuously absent from the discussion.  However, as I speculated back then, he had been the principal beneficiary of the suppressing the dissent.  It appeared that by spring 2005, Putin had made a decision not to run for the third presidential term and wanted to take advantage of United Russia in his future political life.  He therefore needed United Russia united.   

It was approximately around the same time that Putin realized that United Russia had undertaken an unpleasant change: it had morphed from a party “of Putin” into a party of the omnipotent Russian bureaucracy.  Shocked by the street protests against poorly implemented social reforms in January 2005, United Russia had lost all appetite for reforms.  Instead, it focused on legislation making impossible for the opposition to challenge its domination in the Duma election.

Putin didn’t hold back in expressing his displeasure.  At a news conference in January 2006, Putin insulted United Russia by denying it a status of a "stable political party."  He then added to the insult by blessing the creation of another pro-Kremlin party, Fair Russia, headed by his confidant and friend, Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov.

There is little reason to believe that Putin fell victim to a Frankenstein syndrome. Rather, his criticism of United Russia — totally dependent on Putin’s personal popularity — was meant to keep leverage over the increasingly influential and self-confident "partner."

By the end of 2006, United Russia — being in control of 63 of 88 regional parliaments and counting about 70 regional governors as its members — possessed the best election machine in the country.  With the 2008 presidential power transition obviously on his mind, Putin understood that no candidate, including his "successor", would win the presidential election without explicit United Russia support.

Apparently, United Russia had no objections to supporting Putin’s choice, but it had its own pet idea, "party government", interpreted as a right for the largest faction in the Duma (read, United Russia) to nominate the prime-minister.  This would allow the "edinorosses" to better lobby the interests of the industrial and financial groups standing behind the party.

Putin initially opposed the idea, but as I argued in October 2006, he has eventually decided to strike a deal: United Russia’s support of his "successor" in exchange for "party government" for United Russia.

The following events have shown that both sides kept their parts of the bargain.  Putin took the number one spot on the United Russia party list in the December 2007 parliamentary election and has led the party to the constitutional majority in the Duma.  United Russia then nominated Putin’s choice, Dmitry Medvedev, as a candidate for president.  Medvedev promptly promised that, if elected, he would nominate Putin for prime-minister.

On April 15, 2008, a month after Medvedev’s landslide victory in the presidential election, Putin accepted the position as the United Russia chairman.  On May 8, the day after Medvedev’s inauguration, he’ll be confirmed as the prime minister by the Duma.  As the prime-minister and the United Russia leader, he’ll have a chance to form the first post-Communist "party government." 

Now what? 

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s