Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with core members of the United Russia party
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with core members of the United Russia party
Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues and friends. I asked you to join me for a meeting today in order to discuss the situation after the presidential and State Duma elections and to discuss plans for the near future.
As you recall, the United Russia party was established in 2001. It was formed under very difficult circumstances, when the economy and the social sphere were degrading and separatism was rampant. In addition to a consolidating figure, there was need for a consolidating political force, and United Russia has obviously played this role successfully.
I must say, or to be exact, repeat what I have said publicly many times already: the ruling United Russia party played a positive role during the global financial crisis. I am confident that if the government and the majority of the State Duma didn’t work in such a coordinated manner as they did in the past two or three years, then many more of our citizens would have felt the cold abyss into which Russia could have plunged. Thank God, it did not happen. Allow me to repeat that it didn’t happen largely thanks to the very coordinated and effective teamwork of the government and the parliament.
I am grateful to United Russia and above all, of course, to the vast majority of the Russian voters for their support in the presidential election. Now, as we are all well aware, it is time for the most important and most difficult part – the actual work. We now need to perform actual work and achieve concrete results in order to fulfil what was stated during the election campaign as our common goals, in my election articles and other policy documents, including policy documents of United Russia.
However, in our political tradition the president is a non-partisan figure. The Constitution does not forbid the president to be a member of any political party, but in the spirit of our political life the president is primarily a consolidating figure for all political forces and citizens. Therefore, after the inauguration, which will be held on May 7, I consider it proper to resign as chairman of United Russia. This is my first point. Second, I will ask you and party members to convene an extraordinary congress in the second half of May in connection with the fact that Dmitry Medvedev topped the United Russia party list during the State Duma elections and also – as I’m sure you are aware, since I've already mentioned this many times – as president, I will nominate him for the position of Russian prime minister. I believe that it would be appropriate for him to become the party leader. This is how it is done in the world when the government relies on the parliamentary majority. This is the only way to achieve effective cooperation.
Of course, much will need to be done in order to further develop the party. I have already said that it was created in 2001 and, in general, achieved the goals which it set itself. It’s still developing, and it is no secret that in addition to all the positive things in our society that are reflected in the party, many of our society’s problems are also reflected in it. Of course, this must be taken into consideration, especially now under new political arrangements. It is necessary to improve the viability and the political competitiveness of United Russia, if it wants to continue to fight for leadership, and I think that any party should be willing to do so. It needs to prove to citizens and voters that its proposals for the development of the country, the economy and the social sphere are the best for the country in the time period in question. United Russia has everything it needs to preserve this leadership. However, allow me to repeat that we need to be effective, and I very much hope that we will continue to cooperate and, moreover, to do real work together... As you know, I spearheaded the establishment of the party in 2001 and did the work to create it, so I expect that we will work together and I count on your support in the implementation of the tasks I formulated as a presidential candidate in this election cycle. To be sure, these are great and ambitious goals and it’ll be difficult to achieve them. In order to do so, we will need to work very hard together. Only then we will be able to significantly improve the situation in the economy and the social sphere, enhance the quality of the Russian state, and raise the quality of life of our citizens to a whole new level. It is our shared responsibility and our common goal, so this should be the focus of our joint work. That's what I wanted to say to start off the discussion. I will be happy to hear your comments and proposals and would like to invite you to participate in this open and free discussion.
Mr Gryzlov, please go ahead.
Boris Gryzlov (chairman of United Russia’s Supreme Council): Mr Putin, I should probably begin by responding to your statement that you intend to step down as chairman of the party. You are the party’s founder and its leader. And we’ll always regard you as our leader. That’s an approach we’ll adhere to and uphold.
I’d like to thank you for praising United Russia’s performance. It owes its success to you as well.
United Russia has been around for over a decade now; it was established in December 2001 on the basis of previously created parties and public movements. We managed to do a great deal together between 2001 and 2004 and that was a remarkable period in this country’s history, I think.
We worked in a consolidated way during the 2008-2009 crisis, and into 2010. We enacted a lot of new laws, and United Russia members made lots of proposals for the anti-crisis plan that was subsequently approved by the government and discussed at a State Duma session.
We have a record that we can be proud of. United Russia is the nation’s leading party today. Some media and opposition movements may talk about our party approaching the twilight of its existence, but they are wrong. The skies that they see are red, but it’s dawn, actually. The results of the March 4 polls, the showing that you, Mr Putin, made as a presidential candidate, and our results in municipal elections all demonstrate a high level of voter support for the party.
We won in 65% of the 1,600 election districts where the latest elections of municipalities’ administration heads were held. This proves that the level of popular trust in our party is really high – about two-thirds. I don’t think the leading party in any European countries can boast such election results.
I realise that in the next cycle of elections – both parliamentary and presidential – United Russia should rely on its electoral base. We made a lot of commitments during the election campaign and we should now work hand in hand to meet them. The new State Duma has been in session for a little over four months now, and the United Russia faction has already demonstrated where it stands. It clearly sets the tune in parliament’s lower house. And it’s crucial that it continues to consolidate its unity.
I’m pointing this out because now, for the first time ever, our faction consists not just of United Russia members, but it also incorporates quite a few representatives of the Russian Popular Front. They can see the party at work, and it would be right if they were offered to join as full-fledged party members. This would enhance our party’s unity.
The next United Russia congress is to be held in May. Your nomination of Dmitry Medvedev to the post of party chairman will be approved by all of the congress’ delegates, I think. Mr Medvedev ran a successful campaign as the head of the party list, and we managed to make a good showing despite the tough circumstances we were facing.
I think that at the forthcoming congress, we should take a few more steps toward democratising our party life.
Currently under consideration are Charter amendments providing for a new approach to the election of regional party leaders and a wide choice of nominees. This will be a step toward democratisation, I think.
We’ve adopted the practice of holding primaries, in which many candidates can take part.
There are clubs operating within our party now. And the concept of platforms has been introduced. We have at least three platforms: social-conservative, liberal and patriotic. This is something most of the voters can identify with, whatever their political preferences, I think. We’ll try to work out solutions reflecting the views of a majority of the population. This is part of the democratisation processes going on in our party life.
We should continue to expand the party, drawing on our traditions and experience, on our conservative approach to assessing events. I’d like to point out that despite all the attacks we’re facing, we have 5,000-6,000 new members join the party every month. This gives us food for optimism and a sense of confidence in our future.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you, Mr Gryzlov. I hope the congress will support Mr Medvedev’s candidacy. And I’m certain that the new leader, as well as the party as a whole and its parliamentary faction will have businesslike relations with the government, and that their joint work and meaningful criticism will yield the best possible results for the people. Thanks a lot.
(Addressing Sergei Neverov, member of the Bureau of United Russia’s Supreme Council, Secretary of the Presidium of United Russia’s General Council and Deputy Chairman of the State Duma) Mr Neverov, please go ahead.
Sergei Neverov: Thank you, Mr Putin. In keeping with the chairman’s instructions, we’ll gather for a General Council Presidium session tomorrow to schedule the congress. Under the Charter, we should do this no more than one month in advance, meaning that we’ll have 30 days to draw up an agenda and send it out to the regions. We’ll now get down to discussing your nominee to the party chairmanship with our regional branches. The forthcoming congress will be our 13th. At the 10th congress, we elected the governing bodies, including the General Council and its Presidium. And at the ninth, we elected the chairman.
As you mentioned, the party chairman assumes power only after the inauguration on May 7. This is why we must comply with these regulations, which is what we are doing and will be doing. The only additional thing we need to coordinate is the date. You suggest late May, but May 26 is a Friday, so we could be able to…
Vladimir Putin: May 26 is a Saturday.
Sergei Neverov: Yes, sorry, it’s Saturday. I just want to suggest that we should make plans for a two-day party conference on May 25 and 26, to have enough time to discuss our political platforms and formulate proposals, our programme for the future, at the conference. If you agree on the dates, we’ll forward the schedule to the presidium.
As for what Mr Gryzlov said about elections, we also held elections for local governments and regional heads on December 4 and March 4. Mr Gryzlov said that 1,252 of the 1,800 United Russia candidates, or about 67%, were elected. Local government elections are very important for us. We had over 41,000 candidates, of which 68% or 28,717 people were elected. I think that this is very important now, before the upcoming elections for the heads of the regions, to form a serious platform of support [for the party] on the local level, considering the amendments which we are discussing today that stipulate collecting signatures from municipal deputies for nominating candidates to the post of regional head. In this respect and considering that we are discussing alternative elections for our secretaries by secret ballot, I would like to ask the following... Mr Putin, it was one of your initiatives: you said at a meeting with your election committee that parties should strengthen internal democracy, and that elections should be also held in accordance with this principle. It has been proposed that if our secretary is supported by the party at this level, he or she should also be nominated for the post of regional head and lead the party to new victories in the new political environment. If they win, they are to implement the projects, initiatives and programmes included in the election platform in the given region, and also to assume responsibility for their implementation. If they lose the elections, the format will be different. But now we would like to discuss the possibility of regional branch secretaries leading the party to victory in the elections of the regional heads. What do you think?
Vladimir Putin: I think that you are absolutely right. I am sure that in this case the candidates elected by their party in such a democratic procedure would be more efficient and successful and would enjoy greater support from people. If candidates are nominated in a bureaucratic procedure, and especially if they represent the ruling party, they will have very few chances to be elected as the heads of their regions. On the contrary, if they are advanced to the political stage in the regions and the country in a democratic procedure, in a direct and secret ballot based on ratings (we can consider the procedure later), the rank-and-file party members will feel direct involvement in the political process. I’m sure that new people will appear on our political stage. Please, Mr Vorobyov (Andrei Vorobyov, member of the bureau of the United Russia Supreme Council, member of the Presidium of the United Russia General Council, deputy speaker of the State Duma, leader of the Untied Russia party in parliament).
Andrei Vorobyov: Thank you, Mr Putin. This has become a very exciting meeting, although with some sad overtones. I think the best part is that we have entered a new period in the country’s development: you have been elected president and much has been accomplished, including the articles and the programme you laid out before the election, which an absolute majority of our supporters welcomed. Implementation is clearly very important in the medium term. Of course, we understand that the connection between us will be based, as before, on our regular meetings and discussions, and we also reserve the right to synchronise our legislative initiatives and other ideas.
We are expecting Dmitry Medvedev in the State Duma soon, and will hold a party meeting in parliament to discuss his candidacy after you nominate him. We are in the mood to work. Your speech today was wonderful; it has reaffirmed the logic of you election articles and initiatives. I think that this is a very important period for the country – to dare implement the programme’s goals in education, healthcare and the economy, which concern all people, all families. I think that this is a very interesting time and we don’t doubt that our team will make a large contribution to achieving these goals.
United Russia has had a few difficult periods. Initially, its rating was below 20%, but it rose to 25% and 28%, which were major achievements, but we did not have a solid majority in all the legislatures or a team that could support a given region. We have scored some achievements – history will decide how many – and now we need to prove our worth at each election. Mr Neverov has said that competition will be very tough soon, next October, especially since we have many political parties. I believe that we will not fail, that we will continue to move forward with a new chairman.
Thank you. We hope to hold regular meetings and constructive dialogue, and also reserve the right to consult with you regularly, to synchronise our watches, so to say. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, this is what we’ll do. I think that Andrei Vorobyov has learned the ropes as the leader of the party in parliament and knows that cooperation with the government is not limited to slogans but is serious professional work aimed at practical results in the vital spheres of society. You mentioned our cooperation over the years. This is what I’d like to say in this respect, and I think it’s important. United Russia has never – almost never in general and never regarding serious issues – resorted to populist slogans. That was difficult to accomplish for a ruling party, difficult to avoid making promises and handing out rich pickings to everyone even when it is unhealthy. But United Russia has managed to avoid this.
I appeal to you to continue acting responsibly towards the people who have shown trust in you and me as a presidential candidate by voting for United Russia and for me as a candidate. Taking this kind of stance is very difficult, but it is also very important to do if we want to be honest towards our citizens. Therefore, I believe that United Russia should progress towards a healthy but firm conservatism. As planned, it should become a centrist conservative force relying on all the positive achievements at the previous stage of our development, which values these achievements yet is pointed toward the future. If we manage to create a mechanism for internal party democracy and ensure cooperation with the new government at the proper level, we will be able to work together towards the goals we have set.
Sergei Ilyinykh (Secretary of the Political Council of United Russia’s Tomsk branch, speaker of the Tomsk Duma): Thank you. I have a question regarding the upcoming events, which likely worry everyone in this room: Do you think that United Russia as the leading party should strengthen its influence on the formation of the government and subsequently on its reshuffling, and, if necessary, express its opinion of those ministers who fail to properly fulfil their responsibilities? What is your opinion?
Vladimir Putin: I say that the existing procedures in the State Duma allow any parliamentary party to do this. As for the State Duma majority, on which the government should and will rely, the formation of the government and its work, as well as the work of its ministers should be open to criticism from the public and from parliament. Considering that the ruling majority in the State Duma plans to support the government – at least I assume so, it should be the main force influencing events. It cannot support proposals which it considers alien, but if it grants its support to projects it considers important, it should have the right to demand progress reports. In general, we have developed a mechanism of unofficial consultations between the government and the party leaders, the leadership of the party in parliament. I believe that we could and should continue to use it.
And, of course, I expect that new instruments will be developed. Please go ahead.
Yuri Shuvalov (deputy secretary of the General Council Presidium for Creative Work and Interaction with Political Clubs; deputy head of the State Duma Administration; head of the State Duma Administration’s Communications Department): Mr Putin, in our minds, the Putin plan, developed under Mr Gryzlov’s guidance in keeping with your statements and positions, will remain the main document guiding our implement of the country’s development strategy. The party continues to evolve and consolidate, notably thanks to discussions that take place in our clubs and between our platforms.
I think the next stage in its development could be the introduction of a new, Eurasian format for those discussions. We deem highly important the task that you and the Eurasianism advocates set in the first Izvestia article ahead of the election campaign. It reflects the aspirations of many of the region’s inhabitants.
Pan-Eurasian discussions would let us identify shared values, avoiding mistakes made within other regional alliances, and would also give us confidence that despite all the global problems, we have a future and will be able to translate our strategy into reality. This could breathe new life into the party. In my view, it would be feasible to do that kind of work in collaboration with partners representing political and public forces in Eurasian nations. Eurasianism has become a philosophy, and it is advocated by many not just in the region but globally. It could also become part of our party ideology, I think. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: This is a tradition of our political thinking. In Russia, Eurasianism took root a long time ago, but it’s assuming a new dimension amid post-Soviet reintegration processes. This concept of political philosophy has now entered into politics per se, becoming part of our agenda. Why? Because it’s something crucial to inter-parliamentary ties, given that we need to adopt laws on economic regulation in the Customs Union member countries and in those that are part of our Common Economic Space. All this is impossible to do without parliamentary work. But a parliament does not exist in vacuum; its work is based on the activity of various political forces represented as parties. So, there’s clearly a need for this. I’m referring in particular to what is developing as an integration nucleus. Our closest neighbours still aren’t involved in it. But the economic logic will push our closest partners to join all those integration processes.
The second task at the level of parties and public movements is to promote those ideas and communicate them to the masses in our partner countries so that they become ingrained in people’s minds. That’s an extremely important task. And I believe it should become systematic. It is no secret that despite the economic logic pushing us toward integration, some of the countries still choose to stay away. And this is highly important. That kind of work is hard to do at the executive level; ideas will be much easier to communicate to our closest neighbours and partners if it is members of the general public or respected public organisations that act as the mouthpieces.
Please go ahead.
Alexander Khinstein (member of the United Russia General Council, coordinator for communications with shareholders, deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee for Security and Anti-Corruption Measures): Thank you. Alexander Khinstein, State Duma deputy.
Mr Putin, I’ve got two questions, one’s general and the other, more specific. I’d like to expand on the argument that you made about what the relations between parliament and the executive branch should be like. You said they should be businesslike and not devoid of meaningful criticism. It’s no secret that as a party and a State Duma parliamentary group, we aren’t critical enough of the executive branch these days, and we stop short of criticising even when there’s a need for a strong and firm response. There’s no unwritten rule, no. But it’s established practice with us. Bearing in mind the tasks assigned to the party and the current political landscape, do you think we should take a more principled position towards the executive branch? It’s a general question.
And a more specific one. You also mentioned the need for checks. I believe that legislative control, as a mechanism that has now gained popularity in many countries across the world, could be instrumental.
Another issue I’d like to raise is that of homebuyers cheated out of their money by dishonest real estate companies. You personally pay a lot of attention to this problem and you even mentioned it in your report to the State Duma. But the actual figures are 1.5 times as high as the statistics offered by the Regional Development Ministry. Some of my colleagues will probably get mad at me for saying this, but I’m under the impression that we won’t be able to resolve the problem this year, as you expect us to. Why don’t we hold a special meeting on the issue under your chairmanship or during a government meeting? Because, obviously, there’s a need for such intervention. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: I’ll begin with this last question. The problem with cheated homebuyers is a result of poorly worded legislation. Had the government erected a barrier to such dishonest schemes, scoundrels would have stood no chance of success. I want to emphasise that the responsibility for this rests, in the first place, with parliament.
When the executive branch submits bills to parliament for consideration, the legislators should carefully analyse the proposals at issue. It’s easier for the executive branch to work on bills, inviting experts to help craft them. But it‘s parliament that adopts them. So that’s where the system of checks should work in the first place.
Secondly, I don’t think the ruling party’s parliamentary group should criticise just for the sake of criticism.
In my view, the government and the leading political force should establish meaningful cooperation, notably at the decision-making level. This is extremely important, not just for passing bills in their zero reading, but also for adopting some by-laws. Why?
A good bill may be compromised by inadequate implementation. This could be fixed through a mechanism of spontaneous interaction.
If some parliamentary group – especially the ruling party – sees the legislative branch as a whole fails to comply with a decision made or evades tasks set jointly with the government, it should bring this up for discussion. But it shouldn’t criticise for the sake of criticising or just to show how tough it is.
That kind of approach is the key to success. Life is complex and multidimensional, and conflicts and disputes are not out of the ordinary. I hope that the new government, parliament, and United Russia parliamentary group will be able to cooperate in a meaningful way and move toward common goals.
Alexander Khinstein: Speaking about meaningful cooperation…
Vladimir Putin: Oh, as far as cheated homebuyers are concerned, this problem should be resolved at the regional level, above all.
Alexander Khinstein: Of course.
Vladimir Putin: What can the Regional Development Ministry possibly do about this? It could only regulate, coordinate somehow, and it could also provide some regions with additional federal aid – financial or otherwise. But we should try to avoid creating a culture of…
Alexander Khinstein: Paternalism.
Vladimir Putin: And of parasitism. So the bottom line is, municipal problems should be resolved at the municipal level, regional problems, at the regional level; and federal ones, at the federal level.