Earlier today Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced he was stepping down as leader of the ruling United Russia party, and nominating Russian President Dimitry Medvedev as his replacement, according to reports on Russia Today.
But why is Putin stepping down as head of the party that has supported him since he became President in 2000?
The obvious reason
Putin wasn’t actually leader of the party until 2008, when he stepped down from his Presidential role until after his constitutionally limited two terms — in fact, before 2008 the position of “Party Leader” didn’t even exist, and (weirdly) he’s never technically been a member. However, the position in the party helped add further authority to Putin’s prime ministerial role in Russia’s parliament, the Duma.
Putin is soon returning to Presidential office and has no need to be leader of a political party. He apparently told the party leadership on Monday that the President of Russia needed to be a “non-partisan figure,” RFE/RL reports.
The slightly more sinister undertone
United Russia’s support of Putin has served its purpose, but now the party is becoming a burden. Widespread voting irregularities in December’s Duma elections deeply damaged the party’s reputation and led to the protests that rocked Putin’s successful bid for president’s office earlier this year.
Continuing problems, such as the corrupt mayoral vote in Astrakhan and subsequent hunger strike, have caused the party’s approval ratings to shrink, while Putin’s own remain relatively high — he received 63% of the vote this year, while the party barely managed 50% in December.
In the last year Putin has begun building up a movement called the Popular Front – which supported United Russia’s plans, but did not requires its members to join its ranks, Russia Today reports. There’s now speculation that United Russia could collapse or split, the Moscow Times reports, though party members deny it.
To all appearances, Putin has ruled Russia like a King while not even in the president’s office. He’s seems to be wondering now if he really needs to have the support of a political party at all.
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