An update on United Russia convention under way.

The ninth United Russia convention began its work in Moscow. Discussion of the role of the party in realization of the socioeconomic development strategy was proclaimed the central issue on the agenda. There is, however, more to the convention than that. United Russia intends to make another try at getting Vladimir Putin into its ranks. When the head of state permitted the use of his name on United Russia list of candidates for the parliament at the previous convention, he made a point that he was not a member of the party and would like to retain this status. Since the customer is always right, United Russia invented a mechanism that enables Putin to become its leader without being an actual member.

“The party has always stood by Vladimir Vladimirovich, one of its founding fathers,” Boris Gryzlov said addressing the convention. “We’ve been inviting him into the party for years. The charter was amended so as to single out the position of United Russia chairman. Support these amendments today, and tomorrow we will be able to ask him to become party chairman.” That the convention adopted the amendments unanimously goes without saying.

Gryzlov told journalists even before the convention that United Russia was offering Putin a specific position, that of the party chairman (as opposed to membership in United Russia offered in the past). “We split the positions of chairmen of the party and Supreme Council of the party,” Gryzlov said. (Gryzlov himself will probably remain the Supreme Council chairman.)

Amendments to the charter adopted yesterday permit chairmanship for non-members. Chairmen are elected for four-year periods. Along with everything else, the amendments stipulate that United Russia chairman represents the party “in dealings with Russian, international, and foreign state structures and non-governmental organizations” and so on. In other words, Prime Minister Putin may deal with President Dmitry Medvedev on behalf and in the name of United Russia.

The amendments were immediately dispatched to the Justice Ministry for registration (hopefully by this morning already). Putin is expected at the convention later today, and all of United Russia fervently hopes that its offer will be accepted. President-elect Medvedev is expected to. Sources close to Medvedev say he has no wish to become United Russia member.