The session of the 9th Congress of Russia’s ruling party United Russia lasted for only 45 minutes. Outgoing President Vladimir Putin and President Elect Dmitry Medvedev took part in the meeting.
The meeting ended with a long-expected statement from Vladimir Putin. Putin officially acknowledged that he would chair the Russian government after presidency. In addition, Putin agreed to become the leader of United Russia.
"I am ready to undertake additional responsibility and become the head of United Russia," Putin said at the party congress held across Red Square from the Kremlin.
Putin will remain a maverick at the party even after he officially becomes its leader. He previously agreed to chair the party list on the threshold of parliamentary elections in Russia in December of 2007. Now he has agreed to chair both the ruling party and the government. To put it in a nutshell, Putin will be able to control the parliament, the economy and the situation in Russia’s regions. It is not ruled out that the State Duma (the parliament of Russia) will revise the powers of Dmitry Medvedev in terms of foreign politics, defense and security.
Speaking before Putin, Medvedev turned down an offer of membership in the party, saying the president should not be affiliated with any political party. He said he supported Putin taking the party leadership, which both he and Putin said would improve coordination between the government and parliament.
"Coordinated work of the government and the parliamentary majority will allow us to successfully solve tasks of economic development, improvement of health care and the education system, and strengthening the security of the state," the AP quoted Putin as saying.
Putin has promised not to shift any presidential powers to the prime minister, who under the constitution is a distant No. 2. But he has made no secret of his plans to use the Duma to ensure that his will is carried out even after he steps down as president.
He put his name at the top of the United Russia ticket in parliamentary elections in December, helping it win 70 percent of the seats in the Duma, and cast the sweeping victory as a vote of confidence in himself and his policies.
Russian politicians and officials say that Putin’s agreement to chair United Russia will contribute greatly to the development of democracy in the nation. “This is another step towards the development of Russian democracy. This is quite normal for many countries, where party leaders become government chairmen after elections,” the head of Russia’s Election Committee, Vladimir Churov said.
Prepared by Dmitry Sudakov