Medvedev Calls to Democratize Ruling Party

The ruling United Russia party should combat its image as a party imposed by authorities by holding elections of its leaders and candidates for jobs in the executive branch, Prime Minister and party leader Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday.

“We need significant and obvious change to maintain our leadership,” Medvedev said at a party congress in Moscow. “The party needs to become more transparent.”

“It must be seen…not as a party imposed from high up, though with popular leaders – which is not so bad per se – but as a party representing the interests of the broad masses,” said Medvedev, who took over party leadership from newly inaugurated President Vladimir Putin earlier this month.

The party should select its candidates for speaker of the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, as well as heads of party factions and branches and regional legislatures through direct and secret ballots, Medvedev said.

Federal and regional party leadership should also be reelected every five years, the prime minister said.

The party should also hold elections of its nominees for mayoral and gubernatorial vacancie, the majority of which are currently occupied by United Russia members, Medvedev said.

Moreover, United Russia should hold debates with its political opponents, something the party has been traditionally reluctant to do, Medvedev said.

He added his ideas were only suggestions for the party’s consideration.

“These are unprecedented proposals,” Medvedev said. “I’m sure we’ll raise a lot of bumps this way, we’ll have some staff problems, problems with offended people slamming the door on us.”

After dominating the political scene through the late 2000s, United Russia was faced with slipping popularity ahead of the State Duma elections in December, in which it narrowly clutched a majority. The vote was marred by widespread fraud allegations, though most of them were not confirmed by the courts, which are themselves often accused of being overly loyal to the Kremlin.

United Russia, slapped with the popular derogative slogan “the party of crooks and thieves” during the elections, was accused by critics of being ineffective and having no distinct political platform. Party bosses, including Medvedev, promised after the vote a radical revamp of United Russia, whose support rating stood at 50 percent in May, according to state-run pollster VTsIOM.


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