Main party offers Putin top job

Delegates from United Russia have officially invited outgoing President Vladimir Putin to be party chairman on Tuesday, the second day of its congress. Members of the country’s biggest party have decided that Putin does not have to join United Russia to b

United Russia’s current chairman has also invited President-elect Dmitry Medvedev to join the party. Medvedev, though, refused the offer, saying he considers it right to remain not affiliated to any party.

Putin has indicated in the past that he may be willing to take the chairman’s job, but there remain doubts about whether or not he’ll accept.

President-elect Dmitry Medvedev has also offered Putin the prime minister’s job in the new government. So eventually, when he steps down on May 7, Vladimir Putin may be head of both the Cabinet and United Russia.

Meanwhile, experts believe Putin will accept the leadership of United Russia. Vyacheslav Nikonov, President of Politika Foundation, says the move would herald “the beginning of changes in the Russian political system and a step towards creating normal party power”.

He believes Putin's decision to become a party leader will not impact on his role as PM. “All leaders in all countries are at the same time party leaders,” Nikonov said.

Some commentators say the proposed changes would see Russia shifting from a presidential to a parliamentary republic.

First day of congress

On Monday the delegates debated the country’s development plans, leading up to 2020. A series of issues, including democracy, human rights, the economy, the growth of the middle class as well as Russia’s global ambitions, were raised during discussions.

Speaking at the forums on Monday, United Russia Chairman Boris Gryzlov outlined the country’s political stability as one of the main achievements over recent years.

“During the past eight years many things have been done for Russia to return to certain powerful starting positions. We were able to take serious steps in the area of paying debts to international financial organisations. We were able to reach a balanced budget without deficiencies. We were able to provide for political stability in our country. We were able to provide for a real vertical of power,” he said.

He also said reducing bureaucracy is an important democratic development.

“When it comes to democratic development, the number and efficiency of civil servants are a key factor. In 2004, we launched a reform to cut down on the amount of civil servants. So now we shouldn't try to solve problems of unemployment by increasing their number. This would only encourage corruption,” Gryzlov noted.