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The Future Of (Dis)United Russia?

An op-ed by Nikolai Petrov from the Carnegie Moscow Center in today’s Moscow Times analyzes United Russia’s planning ahead of the October elections, which, he suggests, could prove to be less of walk in the park than those of last year.  Petrov draws us towards this rather interesting conclusion about one innovation in particular:

Perhaps most important of all, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin plans to appoint his own person who will take day-to-day control of United Russia from his office in the White House. Up until now, this was done exclusively by Kremlin first deputy chief of staff Vladislav Surkov, who answers to President Dmitry Medvedev. Putin had always been content leaving these duties to Surkov only because the elections did not concern him all that much, or he assumed that United Russia’s results were going according to plan. But as Duma and presidential elections are approaching and after the poor results and allegations of fraud in the October vote, Putin was forced to take more direct control of the party.

This means that there will be two centers of power controlling UnitedRussia — Putin’s representative from the White House and Surkov fromthe Kremlin. In a worst case scenario, this could turn into amanagement disaster with two competing power centers eating each otheralive. In the best case, however, it could improve the party’seffectiveness by introducing some competition within the United Russiastructure. If successful, United Russia could be transformed from itstraditional status as a party of androids into being a real politicalparty — or something to close to it.