Interview with Aleksey Pushkov

Aleksey Pushkov, a political analyst, Professor of Diplomacy and International Studies at MGIMO University, spoke to RT about the unexpected results of the first day of the United Russia party congress.

Russia Today: In your opinion, how will President Putin’s statement and agreement to be at the top of the United Russia electoral list affect the electoral position of the party?
Aleksey Pushkov: I think it will affect the electoral position of the party very much and decisively. I mean of course United Russia was the leader going into the forthcoming election and it was clear they would get about 40-45% of the vote, which would almost give them a majority in the State Duma. But with Mr Putin heading United Russia  I think they may well get a constitutional majority, which means over 310 seats. In that case United Russia would become a sort of ruling party in the full sense of the word. They can change the constitution, they can adopt whatever laws they want. Basically, they do not need other parties. So I think that this promotes United Russia to an absolutely unique position, like some of the parties in the history, say, of Japan or Europe, where the Christian Democrats in Italy ruled for many years or the Liberal Democratic party in Japan which has ruled for decades. This is a very decisive step in the formation of the future political landscape in Russia.
RT: So it solidifies the position of the United Russia party ahead of the elections in December?
A.P.: I think that they will get as much as 60-65% of the vote.
RT: Which is really impressive.
A.P.: It is a smashing victory, I think.
RT: That's as far as the United Russia party is concerned. But what about the other parties, what kind of situation they are left in?
A.P.: They were not left with much, I would say. First of all I think it is a huge blow to the Fair Russia party because the Fair Russia party used to say that it is pro-Putin but is in opposition to the government and to the United Russia party. Now that Putin has merged with the United Russia party, what will the Fair Russia party do? I do not know. I think they are losing their programme. I mean that basically they've said they supported Putin, now they have to support the United Russia. This is a contradiction. The Communists? I think the Communists will get what they would have got anyway, I mean 15-16%. The right- wing parties will probably not get in. As for Mr Zhirinovsky, it will depend on how persuasive he is personally, because there is no such thing as the Liberal Democratic Party, there is the party of Zhirinovsky. So if he is good at promoting his position, then he will be elected but not with a lot of votes, I think.
RT: In the view of today's developments, do you think these parties are going to change their strategies or to do something in order to boost their positions and popularity?
A.P.: First of all, all of these parties, with the exception of the Communists, were extremely careful in criticising the President. I mean Fair Russia was saying it supported the President. Mr Zhirinovsky has never criticised the President, although he has criticised the government. Now they will be devoid of the possibility of competing directly with United Russia because now the President is the head of United Russia. Zhirinovsky never attacked him, Mr Mironov, the head of Fair Russia, never attacked him, so basically all the critical elements in their position, in their programme will be killed off. So that will leave just the Communists to criticise and the right-wing parties, which are not very popular in Russia these days.
RT: So, indeed we are likely to see some intriguing and interesting developments in the next couple of months?
A.P.: I think the most intriguing development will be what position Putin takes after the parliamentary election. As he is becoming the head of the party list for these elections, there are two options. On the one hand he will become the leader of the party that will be the real ruling party, meaning he will be able to hold a very strong position in relation to the future president or prime minister. On the other hand he will become the Prime Minister and we will have Putin for the next four years as the Prime Minister of Russia. In this case, who becomes president is a secondary question because if United Russia decides, in these conditions, to form the party of government, it will be in a position to do so and the population will support it. And so, Putin will be basically ruling the country for another four years but in another position, in the position of the Prime Minister.
RT: In other words it is a very far-sighted step?
A.P.: I think it will have very long-term consequences.