United Russia Party Congress — A User’s Guide


Last weekend’s congress of the ruling United Russia party made headlines around the world with President Dmitry Medvedev endorsing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as the party’s candidate for president in 2012 and Putin, in turn, suggested he would name Medvedev as his prime minister, in the extremely likely event that he wins that election. 

08:53-10:34: At this point the helpful announcer steps in to assure us that it has now become “completely obvious to even the most skeptical political analyst that there are no disagreements in the tandem of Medvedev and Putin. The coverage then cuts to Putin expressing his gratitude for the party’s nomination of him for the presidential election. As the congress delivers a standing ovation and Putin says he is counting on their support, the camera (09:24) shows a grim-faced Medvedev nodding, clapping, and quickly sitting down. Then Putin continues, urging all Russians to vote for United Russia in the Duma elections and to support its candidate list, headed by Medvedev (another cut to a grim Medvedev at 09:49; this time he is the first to stand up for another standing ovation). At 10:00, Putin really goes out on a limb and says, “I’m sure United Russia will win.” He then expresses confidence that after the victory, Medvedev will be able to form “a new, effectively functioning, young, energetic, authoritative team” that will “continue the work on modernizing all aspects of our life.” 

10:40-11:33: At this point coverage cuts away from the podium to show what is being discussed “behind the scenes.” By that, apparently, they mean what is happening in the United Russia press room, because we are then treated to clips of various party functionaries speaking before ranks of microphones and assuring us once again that Medvedev and Putin are one team, working in complete harmony. It is worth noting the logos on the microphones — Gazprom-owned NTV, state-controlled Rossiya, state-controlled Channel One, state-controlled Zvezda, state-controlled RT (Russia Today), state-controlled TV-Tsentr, state-controlled Vesti. Party official Andrei Vorobyev tells us that Putin’s announcement that the party will form a government after it wins the election is a step forward for Russian democratic development.

11:35-12:48: Then comes a truly bizarre bit. The congress must vote on the party list, to be headed by Medvedev. Although the film shows delegates voting by holding cards or by openly filling out forms in full view of their neighbors, Putin announces the results of the “secret” ballot. “For – 582. Against – one,” Putin says, followed by a trademark smirk (11:57). At 12:02, footage cuts to Medvedev, who has a hint of a smile and looks down. A small group of senior officials, including Medvedev and Gryzlov, then stands to applaud while the rest of the hall is strangely silent. At 12:18, Putin announces that the party has to “confirm” the results of the secret balloting with an open show of hands. When he announces, “who is opposed,” at 12:27, he looks around in vain for the one naysayer from the first ballot. “And where is that one person?” he jokes ominously as the hall giggles nervously and everyone starts looking around. “Where is that…” and there is a long pause as the hall expects one of Putin’s trademark “hang him by the balls” zingers, “…dissident.” After some applause and laughter, Putin adds: “And why should he show himself?”

12:58-13:55: Now the announcer begins describing the party list of the “renewed” United Russia as the screen flashes pre-prepared images of the top names on the party’s regional lists — First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zhukov, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, Deputy Prime Minister Vyacheslav Volodin, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shogu, Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev, presidential administration head Sergei Naryshkin. None of them, of course, has any real intention of serving in the Duma. At 13:12, it cuts to Shogu saying what everyone else must be thinking: “I don’t see anything at all surprising in this.”

Tags: Russia, United Russia, Putin

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