Working Day

3 april, 2012 16:08

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with Russian Popular Front Coordinating Council

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with Russian Popular Front Coordinating Council
“I assume that the Popular Front will not cease to exist after the election, but will continue working.”
Vladimir Putin
At a meeting with Russian Popular Front Coordinating Council

Vladimir Putin’s opening remarks:

Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, good afternoon.

I was looking forward to meeting with you after the elections when the campaign was over. I wanted to thank all of you, all those involved in the work of the Popular Front, for your cooperation and support, both for the explanatory work you’ve done and for your direct involvement during the election campaign – not only for your active campaigning but primarily for the stance you took and for how you explained to others what has been done, and what we are planning to do together.

Why am I saying “we”? Because, first of all, I assume that the Popular Front will not cease to exist after the election, but will continue working. Secondly, the main political force in parliament, the United Russia party, has fulfilled its promise to the Popular Front: it had promised to include at least 25% of the Popular Front representatives in its election ticket, but in fact it included even more, I think as many as one third. Eighty of the 238 deputies got elected on the Popular Front ticket. They are not members of any political party but they joined the United Russia group in parliament.

So I believe that the Russian Popular Front will hold on to its influence on the work of the parliament. It must influence it directly, by helping to prepare and draft decisions which will be sponsored by United Russia as well as other parliamentary parties. This is our first goal.

Another area for cooperation between us involves the auditing of bills the State Duma is working on. We have had some experience in doing this, a solid cooperative experience I should say – I am referring to the preliminary consultations on the basic healthcare bill. Our colleagues I think have joined this effort more willingly than ever before. The resultant bill involved a lot of compromising, but it was quite acceptable nevertheless. So I think that the involvement of the Popular Front was very timely and effective.

Our colleagues have also taken part in drafting the education law, and are continuing to work on the main economic bill for 2013-2014 and beyond – by this I mean the federal budget. That is our second goal.

Finally, the third important area involves working with municipal governments. We know only too well that a great deal of people’s problems are addressed close to home, and firstly, we need to provide assistance and support to the municipal authorities addressing these problems, and secondly, to continue explaining to the people what their rights are. We must help people by explaining what rights they have and we must help them to exercise those rights. This is a tentative list of issues we need to address in the short and medium term, and it is far from complete. This is about all I wanted to say in my opening remarks, and to thank you again for your cooperation. I hope that we will continue working together.

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Vladimir Putin’s comments and responses to the questions of participants in the meeting


On the future of the Popular Front:

Vladimir Putin: I think that the post-partisan status of the Popular Front is its strongest asset. It provides more opportunities to involve different political forces within the orbit of its influence. I think this makes it easier to exercise the popular control you have mentioned. Otherwise, this would be party control and a party may have many preferences. But it is easier for any post-partisan agency to unite those who hold different political views around common national values. I think this status must be preserved, at least in the near future. It can even be further enhanced. It is possible to give the front the status of a public organisation or movement because we have not registered it legally in any way. This is simply an association and a movement of like-minded individuals, but we can register it and its status would then be defined in charter documents. In principle, we can do all this.

I am confident that the front can and must play a positive role in the development of our political system. It will exert its influence on the formation of parties and the election of governors in the regions. It will also play a role in changing the rules for the formation of the upper chamber of parliament.

Question: And will you still head the front if we register it?

Vladimir Putin: Yes.

Remark: But this is a public organisation. It is not a party agency.

Vladimir Putin: The law does not prohibit this, so this is entirely possible.


About the United Russia parliamentary party and the platform of the Popular Front

Vladimir Putin: First, I fully agree that it is essential that we preserve the unity of the United Russia parliamentary party in the State Duma because, as you rightly pointed out, unity will allow us engage in law-making on a normal, planned basis during debates with other political forces in parliament. Unity will allow us to make decisions. Otherwise, we may find ourselves in a position in which we will not be able to make any decisions. We have seen what happened in some of our neighbouring countries in the last few years. We should prevent this from happening in Russia. The presence of a leading political force in parliament guarantees that the law-making process will continue moving forward but – let me repeat – only during discussions with other parliamentary political parties and with due account of their opinion.

In our work we will be guided by our own programmes that we have drafted during the election campaign. As you noted correctly, I set forth some of these ideas in the articles that I have published. But let us not forget that programme-2020 was also prepared by competent people. I agree with you in that all ultra proposals, distortions or extreme viewpoints very often result in mistakes in practical activities. But the good thing about the front is that it unites Mr Shmakov (Mikhail Shmakov, chairman of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions), who represents the biggest and most reputable trade union association in the country, and representatives of the business community. This allows us to seek mutually acceptable solutions to promote our economy and social sphere on this basis. It is beyond any doubt that Russia should and will remain a social state.


On social and political gender equality

Vladimir Putin: In this country women retire with pension at 55 and men at 60. Almost 30% of Russian pensioners retire earlier. In Ukraine both men and women retire at 65. In some European countries the retirement age is 67-68 for both. It's true that this is their target and they are moving towards it, but the laws have already been passed and will be enacted soon. We don’t have this but that does not mean that we don’t have problems with gender equality. This is true.

I have devoted attention to one problem. Regrettably, this is not just our problem, but it is also a problem for our neighbours and even advanced European countries. In these countries women’s movements even make calculations. I was watching one European channel carefully, and they counted how much less women make on average compared to men. I’m afraid to make a mistake but I think women get paid 14% less than men on average in that country. Do you see? These are not uniquely our domestic problems but this does not mean that we should not resolve them. I believe this is a major issue on which we must focus our attention. We shouldn’t be content that, say, United Russia has more women in parliament than the Communist Party, but we should work to have equality in everything, primarily the social and political sphere. Women and men must receive equal pay. Relevant laws must be strictly observed and the Prosecutor’s Office and other supervisory bodies should monitor compliance with these laws.

A colleague on your left suggested that the Popular Front should also assume some supervisory functions, such as popular control. This is absolutely correct! Let’s deal with this in practical terms. In this context I support all those who think in this way (both the systemic and non-systemic opposition members – it makes no difference). They are thinking and acting in the right direction. Let’s generalise all these ideas and work out a system of measures. We must generalise these practices with the help of 80 State Duma deputies from the Popular Front, not to mention United Russia. It is possible to take all these measures.


On the idea of holding a competition to appoint an ombudsman to protect the rights of businessmen

Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course.

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Vladimir Putin's closing remarks:

...This is what I would like to say – we will meet regularly, albeit not very often, and we will all have our say. Everyone will have an opportunity to express his or her opinion and we will sum up today's discussion. If you don't object, we will move towards creating a public agency, a broad public organisation, which means that we will put this work on a system-wide basis.

< ... >

To prevent having the kind of circular firing squad, so to speak, that you mentioned, we should allow the Popular Front to play a uniting, consolidating role in the elaboration of decisions acceptable for all strata of society on the most topical issues of national development. I hope that this is how our work will proceed.

I'd like to repeat that we will enact this work on a system-wide basis and will sum up all proposals, even those that seem incompatible at first sight. We will strive for a common approach to these problems and I'm sure we will resolve them.

And now the main point that I'd like to make in conclusion. <...> We will consistently work to resolve all problems that were raised during our debates and in the course of the election campaigns, and that are set forth in our programmes and articles. We have mentioned these problems more than once today. I'm counting on your help and support in this respect. Thank you very much.