Popular Front moves up primary date due to large number of applications

Deputy Prime Minister and Chief of Government Staff Vyacheslav Volodin, right in the background, conducts a meeting of the Popular Front headquarters in Moscow. (RIA Novosti/Aleksey Nikolskyi)
The Leader of the United Russia party Vladimir Putin and the chairman of its Supreme Council Boris Gryzlov have agreed to move up the date of primaries in the Popular Front by one week as applications to the movement keep coming in.

­Gryzlov and Putin held a meeting in Prime Minister’s residence of Novo-Ogaryovo on Wednesday to discuss the present situation in the recently formed Popular Front movement – a newly formed organization close to the United Russia political party that can provide parliamentary seats to those who share the party’s ideas but choose not to join it. The Popular Front promised to hold primaries to determine those applicants who should be given the opportunity to run for parliamentary seats on the United Russia ticket.

During the meeting with Putin, Gryzlov said that in spite of the fact that the term for submitting applications to the popular front had been extended by one week, he now he wanted to extend it again as the number of applications was set to exceed 5000. Putin agreed to set the new deadline. Subsequently, the first primaries will be held on July 21.

Boris Gryzlov also said that since the decision on when to hold primaries was made in mid-June, the number of applications to the Popular Front had reached 4500. “If we compare this to [the last parliamentary elections in] 2007, we had 1700 members back then, and now the number of applications to the coordinating council is growing every day,” the State Duma speaker said.

He also said that the competition within United Russia and the Popular Front combined will amount to ten people for everyone parliamentary seat.

United Russia’s initiative to openly offer parliamentary seats to outsiders is a new move in Russian politics. The procedure for the process first involves the submission of applications from branches of United Russia and other organizations and/or persons who join the Popular Front. Special councils – half of whose members will be representatives from United Russia and half of whom will be from the Popular Front – will then select candidates for the joint list that will be approved by the pre-elections congress initially scheduled for September 3rd and 4th.  Before that, members of the Popular Front will take part in the development of United Russia’s elections program.

Among those who have already expressed their intention to join the popular front are many successful businessmen and civil servants. Recently, several members from opposition parties, such as Duma deputies from the Communist and Liberal Democratic factions in the parliament, expressed their intention to join the movement.  At the same time, all major Russian political parties ruled out officially cooperating with the Popular Front.
At the meeting with Gryzlov, Putin said that he was not surprised by the intentions of certain representatives from the opposition, urging his fellow party members to pay attention to the essence of the candidates’ political suggestions and not their party membership.

“I think that we must treat all people who approach us with such suggestions with respect. There is nothing unusual here, it is a normal event when someone who belongs to a party or a political movement reconsiders his position and thinks that he will realize his ideas more easily through United Russia’s structures. I think we must look at the essence of the suggestions they make,” Putin said.