Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Friday called for democratizing the ruling United Russia party which he heads.
United Russia party should combat its image as a party imposed by authorities by holding elections of its leaders and candidates for jobs in the executive branch, he told a party congress in Moscow.
"We need significant and obvious change to maintain our leadership. The party needs to become more transparent," he was quoted by Russia's state-run media as saying.
"It must be seen…not as a party imposed from high up, though with popular leaders - which is not so bad per se - but as a party representing the interests of the broad masses," said Medvedev who took over party leadership from newly inaugurated President Vladimir Putin earlier this month.
He said the party should select its candidates for Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament, the State Duma, as well as heads of party factions and branches and regional legislatures through direct and secret ballots. Federal and regional party leadership should also be re-elected every five years.
The party should also hold elections of its nominees for mayoral and gubernatorial vacancies, the majority of which are currently occupied by United Russia members. Moreover, United Russia should hold debates with its political opponents, something the party has been traditionally reluctant to, Medvedev said.
"These are unprecedented proposals," Medvedev said. "I'm sure we'll raise a lot of bumps this way, we'll have some staff problems, problems with offended people slamming the door on us."
After dominating the political scene through the late 2000s, United Russia was faced with slipping popularity ahead of the State Duma elections in December, in which it scraped through with a narrow majority. The vote was marred by widespread fraud allegations, though most of them were not confirmed by the courts, which are themselves often accused of being overly loyal to the Kremlin.
United Russia was described as "the party of crooks and thieves" during the elections, and was accused of being ineffective and having no distinct political platform. Party bosses, including Medvedev, promised after the vote a radical revamp of United Russia, whose support rating stood at 50 percent in May, according to state-run pollster VTsIOM.
by RTT Staff Writer
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