President to be sole leader on United Russia’s list
Vladimir Putin also said it was possible he would return as Prime Minister once his presidential term was up.
Most analysts say that Putin’s announcement was carefully choreographed, but they all admit it caught them off guard.
The first parliamentary meeting after the President’s announcement was quick and sober. Without sparing too many words, the deputies raced through the agenda, and even such a provocative topic as relations with Georgia failed to produce a heated discussion.
The new Russian parliament is just 14 years old but it has already seen many changes.
Back in 1993 there were eight parties in the State Duma. This number has now been reduced to four. And some expect that, within years, it will be down to two.
Communist party members are concerned that Mr Putin’s joining the race could damage their party’s performance at the coming elections. But the Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov actually praised the President.
“Putin has finally acknowledged the need to build a two-party system in Russia. When you have 20 or 30 parties in the running, it won’t lead to anything good. Now the real competition will be between the Communists and United Russia,” he said.
Meanwhile, Viktor Gerashchenko, a member of the Other Russia coalition, is not sure this step will have a positive effect for the United Russia party.
“In my opinion the majority of votes will go to the United Russia party. And the fact Russia’s President has joined the party may strengthen its position even more – but not necessarily. The voters’ reasoning is not easy to predict. It could have a negative effect,” he commented.