21 September 2003

Putin breaks old Russian tradition

Elsewhere this sort of thing wouldn't be news, but in Russia it is: "Putin enters party political fray." The news is that Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to throw his support behind United Russia ahead of December's parliamentary elections. In the past Russian presidents, including Yeltsin and Putin, have made a grand pretence of being above partisan politics, apparently seeing themselves as the heirs of the tsars. They have thus left the various parties, which tend to merge, divide and mutate between elections, to battle it out among themselves. As a result, the partisan field has remained cluttered with numerous small parties, which find it difficult to co-operate for political purposes within the State Duma.

United Russia and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, despite their frontrunner status, both enjoy only 20 percent popular support each. Perhaps United Russia will gain momentum now that Putin has dropped the pretence of neutrality.

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