Putin as party leader and national leader
Vladimir Putin will be invited to join the party at United Russia’s upcoming congress – and to become the party leader immediately. According to this arrangement, Putin would revert to the model set out in Article 6 of Brezhnev’s Constitution.
Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, leader of the United Russia party, has stated that Vladimir Putin will be invited to join the party at United Russia’s upcoming congress – and to become the party leader immediately. This announcement fits in with the General Plan arrangement described four months ago.
According to this arrangement, Putin would revert to the model set out in Article 6 of Brezhnev’s Constitution (1977) – becoming the general secretary of the Party, the political system’s de facto nucleus, the guiding and directing force. In this construct, the president’s identity doesn’t matter – since the country’s real leader is the general secretary. He can combine the party leadership with the office of prime minister; this isn’t a problem, but the functions of prime minister are relegated to his second priority. As general secretary, Putin would gain additional political capacities.
The government, even if it is party-based to some extent, cannot be a resource that provides absolute political support. The Party, on the other hand, is capable of being such a resource – in terms of organization, personnel, and ideology. Perhaps this is the very reservoir that the future prime minister needs to let him play the leading role in the duumvirate. Moreover, he would gain additional “legitimacy” as the national leader.
Then again, Gryzlov might only be testing the waters of public opinion. Perhaps some secret opinion poll will show the Kremlin exactly how popular this idea is. But in the present-day political circumstances, why shouldn’t it be popular?
This kind of governance construct is as vital as oxygen for United Russia itself: after all, the point of its existence in the new political system isn’t entirely clear, now that the Kremlin’s party has achieved its electoral objectives. It’s more form than content. But if United Russia gains the former president and incumbent prime minister as its leader, it would have a purpose again. The national leader’s party would get a new lease on life. Then again, it needs to be understood that this would spell the end of any hope of political competition or a multi-party system. After all, who would dare to contradict Putin’s party? Some attempted to do so during the Duma elections; the response took the form of arrests and riot police batons.
The office of general secretary – otherwise known as the post of national leader – has yet another advantage: no time limits. It can be held as long as necessary… that is, unless politics as such moves on to other arenas in the meantime, as it did in the Gorbachev era. Arenas that don’t resemble the lobbying maneuvers within United Russia.
The important point here is not to miss the moment when the old system starts objectively falling apart. Gorbachev was too late in attempting to hold two offices (president and party leader) simultaneously – he missed his moment.