ROAR: United Russia party increases influence as Moscow gets new mayor

After Sergey Sobyanin was confirmed as Moscow mayor, another representative of the ruling party’s leadership took over his post in the government.

President Dmitry Medvedev has appointed State Duma deputy speaker Vyacheslav Volodin as federal government chief of staff. The post had been vacant after Sobyanin’s confirmation by the Moscow City Duma. The member of United Russia’s Supreme Council was sworn in as the new head of the city on Thursday.

Volodin, who is also one of the ruling United Russia’s leaders, will become a deputy prime minister, the head of the government’s staff and deputy chairman of the presidential commission for modernization. This would help “to square possibilities of the government and those of the presidential administration,” Medvedev explained.

In turn, Sergey Neverov has replaced Volodin as the Secretary of United Russia’s General Council Presidium. Prior to this, he was Volodin’s first deputy.

According to Boris Gryzlov, State Duma speaker and chairman of the United Russia Supreme Council, Volodin will keep his post in the council’s bureau.

Some analysts have described Volodin’s appointment as unusual but quite logical. The president and the prime minister have known Volodin for many years. He has been working with both the party’s federal structures and regional organizations, Leonid Polyakov of the Higher School of Economics noted.

Volodin is to some extent a sensational choice, but a logical one… as he is a professional,” Polyakov told the party’s website. On the other hand, although the country is not a parliamentary republic, “it is impossible to ignore the fact that United Russia has majority in federal and regional parliaments,” he stressed.

Dmitry Badovsky, deputy director of the Institute of Social Systems, has seen “a strategic moment” in Volodin’s appointment. According to him, “a clear signal” has been sent about strengthening “a party bloc” in the government as the parliamentary and presidential elections are nearing.

Volodin is an effective organizer,” said Dmitry Orlov, general director of the Agency of Political and Economic Communications. “He successfully conducted the latest United Russia’s election campaign,” the analyst told the website. “He has always positioned himself as a party manager rather than an ideological politician.

Nevertheless, analysts are highlighting an increasing influence of the ruling party in power structures. “In Russia, political parties are gradually turning from the decoration of public politics into active subjects of political activity,” believes Pavel Salin of the Center for Political Conjuncture.

Federation Council speaker and leader of the Fair Russia party Sergey Mironov has noted that so far the rival United Russia “has attracted” officials. “And now one of the main functionaries of the party has been given a high position in the government,” Vremya Novostey daily quoted him as saying.

Volodin occupied the third position in the party’s hierarchy, Vedomosti daily noted. Now he will be responsible for the issues concerning the budget and modernization. “His protégé Sergey Neverov will continue Volodin’s course for the modernization of the party itself,” the paper noted.

One unlikely critic convinced that United Russia has to be modernized is the previous Moscow Mayor, Yury Luzhkov. On Thursday, he again described it as “a servile party.

Calling himself one of the founding fathers of United Russia, Luzhkov stressed that his “attitude towards it has always been warily critical.” The media note, however, that he was not so critical during his long mayor’s tenure.

United Russia’s representatives have rebuked Luzhkov for the change of opinion. United Russia “is serving the interests of the people, not those of individual politicians,” Aleksey Chesnakov, who heads the party’s public council, told Interfax news agency.

The party was founded with the active involvement of the prime minister and the president, and they “are seen as the party’s founding fathers,” he said.

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT