BORN TO FLY AND CRAWL

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United Russia is striving to integrate left-wing and right-wing ideas

The United Russia party’s sixth congress cannot be described as historic. Analysts had expected some serious debate about the present and future of a ruling party. What they got was minor intra-party intrigue, some edits to the party charter, and a change in the party logo.


The United Russia party’s sixth congress cannot be described as historic. Analysts had expected some serious debate about the present and future of a ruling party which is capable of making a political diagnosis of our society’s condition and solving the problems Russia is facing. Instead, what they got was minor intra-party intrigue, some edits to the party charter, and a change in the party logo. Rumors that the party congress would adopt a new policy program for the next federal elections remained nothing more than rumors. There was only smoke without fire.

In his report, United Russia leader Boris Gryzlov said: “The opposition has long called us the ruling party. Isn’t it time for us to really become the ruling party?”

What is behind this? Not a continuation of the “approve everything” policy, of course. But what else could it be? Perhaps a return to the problem of forming a party-based government in Russia? After all, with new legislation giving majority factions in regional parliaments the right to suggest regional leader candidates, the next move could involve implementing the same system at the federal level. In that context, of course, Gryzlov’s question was not asked casually. His speech was prepared over several months, with many options being considered and many scenarios proposed. But the “protocol of intent” was still left hanging. It’s been decided not to change the party’s horses in mid-stream.

All the same, quite a lot was said at United Russia’s congress about the present government. “Money ought to be making money! It wouldn’t hurt to remind our Finance Ministry of that,” said Gryzlov, once again raising the topic of the Stabilization Fund and the federal budget’s bonus revenues. It’s worth noting that last year the Duma passed the budget for 2005 without asking too many questions about the Cabinet’s proposed figures. Midway through this year, the Cabinet suddenly requested the parliamentary majority to “correct” the budget, in the sense of revising its revenue figures upward. United Russia seemed to be hypnotized. What kind of ruling party is this, if it carries out the government’s lightest requests without considering the consequences at all?

No matter what, United Russia has to share responsibility for the government’s policies. Hence, while passing the budget for 2006, the Duma has also passed a resolution in which it sets out the programs the government must implement in the event that budget revenues exceed the forecast figures. What’s more, it turns out that United Russia will soon address the Cabinet on the question of cutting VAT from 18% to 15%, while also demanding that employers raise hourly wage rates. “Our main objective is to raise as many people as possible above the poverty line,” said Gryzlov, confirming yet again that United Russia has chosen a left-of-center economic policy course.

So much for practice. As for theory, Gryzlov addressed it separately, following the fashion of using other countries as examples: “The left and the right have become thoroughly intermingled over there. Our principle consists of the same approach. That principle would be particularly beneficial for those who have started attaching various platforms to the party. To them, I’d like to say that the train could well pull out, leaving the platform behind.”

The train could leave, indeed. United Russia is striving to integrate both left-wing and right-wing ideas: that is, to produce an ideological mutation. But even if United Russia doesn’t undergo an official split, by the time the Duma campaign of 2007 starts voters will want to see something new in United Russia, not just the usual bureaucratic image.

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