Popular Front candidates compete for places in United Russia party list

Vladimir Putin speaks at United Russia's conference in Volgograd on May 6, 2011, where he first floated the idea of the Popular Front (RIA Novosti / Alexey Nikolsky)
The faction of the United Russia party in the next parliament may significantly change as the party attracts more followers to its Popular Front.

­The All-Russia Popular Front has announced plans to start work in regions to form its “people’s program.” For this purpose about 30 representatives were selected, who will be sent to different territories. The list includes director Fedor Bondarchuk, polar explorer Arthur Chilingarov and television journalist Aleksey Pimanov. Citizens trust these people, the head of United Russia’s executive committee Andrey Vorobyev told reporters on Wednesday. “They are professionals who know the problem and can explain it,” he noted.

The Popular Front was created on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s initiative in May. Putin said that a quarter of people on United Russia’s list of candidates for parliament will be given to participants of the front, who are not members of the ruling party.

The team of representatives of the Popular Front’s federal body will meet with people in the regions and gather their opinions and proposals that could be included in the party’s election program, Vorobyev explained. The parliamentary elections will be held in December.

These representatives should help a new think tank, the Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies, which is busy developing the outline of the program for both the front and United Russia. The institute was approved by the prime minister and is headed by Nikolay Fedorov, a member of the parliament’s upper house and former head of the republic of Chuvashia. He has already promised to attract experts from Moscow and the regions.   

While announcing the creation of the front, Putin said United Russia needs new faces and new ideas. There clearly will be more new deputies in the next State Duma, Vorobyev said on Wednesday. He recognized that the formation of the front was not an easy process, and competition for places on the list of candidates to the parliament is increasing.

There is some friction between participants of the front, Vorobyev said, adding that “this does not disturb a common harmony and mood of our team.” One of the conditions for the front’s formation remains the opportunity for its members to take part in the elections.

The candidates will be selected at primaries, with three or four people for each place on United Russia’s list. In regions where elections to regional bodies are also held in December, the competition will be even tighter, Vorobyev predicts. He does not rule out that some candidates from the party will lose to representatives of the Popular Front. Everything will depend on popularity and political weight of candidates in their regions, he argued.  

At the same time, the ruling party is not going to lose its leading position on the political stage. The strategic task is to form the majority faction in the next State Duma, Vorobyev said.

The party’s congress in the fall should decide who will lead the list of candidates, the politician said. But he added that in the most important moments Putin “was always” with the party. The prime minister heads United Russia without being its member. “We believe the only man in the country who is able to unite so many people full of initiative is Vladimir Putin,” Vorobyev said.

Leaders of opposition parties take the idea of the Popular Front with skepticism, saying it is an organization being formed around Putin rather than United Russia. But the Communists have decided to form their Home Guard, while the Fair Russia party has announced the creation of the union of its followers in an attempt to intercept the Popular Front initiative.