United Russia’s leaders and activists discuss program of Popular Front

Vladimir Putin says United Russia needs new ideas and new faces (RIA Novosti / Alexey Nikolsky)
Only politicians and members of civic unions that share the ruling party’s ideas will be able to join the new organization, the Popular Front.

­Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is continuing work to establish the All-Russia Popular Front. On Wednesday evening, the prime minister held an informal meeting with the activists and the leadership of the United Russia party at a Sochi restaurant to discuss the creation of the governing body and the drafting of constituent documents.

Putin, who heads United Russia, suggested creating the All-Russia Popular Front when speaking at the party’s regional conference in Volgograd last week. This front will be instrumental in unifying United Russia, other parties, trade unions and different organizations, Putin believes.

He said such form of unification of different forces ahead of major political events has been used in other countries. United Russia is currently gearing up for the parliamentary election due to be held this December. Putin admitted that the party needed new ideas and new faces.   

The front will make it possible for people who are not members of United Russia to enter the State Duma on that party’s list. According to Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov, the Popular Front will have a simple structure “with no relation to parties.” The dominant principle is the equality of all participants of the front.

Although some have skeptical or pessimistic views about the front, many organizations have responded to the idea, Peskov said. At the same time, other parliamentary parties do not seem to be willing to join the front being created around the ruling party.

The leader of the Liberal Democratic Party Vladimir Zhirinovsky said it was clear now that United Russia is a left-wing party because people’s fronts in the past were usually created by left-wing forces.

But the Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said the ruling party “is losing its electorate” and therefore needs some consolidation. “Then you should say what your main goals and programs are, who you will consolidate with and for what,” he was quoted by Itar-Tass as saying.

Another party represented at the State Duma, Fair Russia, will not join the organization proposed by Putin, but is going to establish its own front instead. There will be many non-party people among Fair Russia’s candidates, its chairman Nikolay Levichev said.

Answering a question as to whether such opposition leaders as Mikhail Kasyanov, Boris Nemtsov or Eduard Limonov can join the Popular Front, Peskov said these figures do not share United Russia’s strategic or tactical goals. To join that party’s list, one should at least “share confidence in the need for a steady development of the country,” he noted.

But public unions are welcome in the new structure. Boris Gryzlov, chairman of United Russia’s supreme council, said that about 100 public organizations were ready to join the front’s coordination council.

The All-Russia Popular Front may also become a basis for the 2012 presidential elections, Gryzlov said on Thursday. As a consolidating force, it could nominate and support a candidate for president, he added.