Fri, Aug 18, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Russian political fixers mull creating new party

THE GUARDIAN , MOSCOW

Political fixers at the Kremlin think they have found a solution to the failing fortunes of the party that was engineered to support President Vladimir Putin: create another one that pretends to be an opponent.

Putin's aides are concerned that United Russia, the pro-Kremlin party that dominates parliament, is jaded and losing the support of the electorate.

"[Russia needs] a second major political party, which will need time to come to life, though we've become used to thinking that everything must be done at one go," said Vladislav Surkov, deputy head of the presidential administration.

He said it could eventually replace United Russia, which lacks ideology besides offering unwavering support for the president.

Analysts predicted the new political force -- which could unite several embryonic parties -- would be entirely Kremlin controlled, but presented to voters as an opponent or alternative to United Russia.

Surkov, who is known as the chief architect of fake opposition movements in Russia's world of virtual politics, made his comments in a speech to members of the Party of Pensioners.

"The problem is that there is no major alternative party," he said. "Society lacks one leg to stand on when the other gives way."

The news was greeted coolly by political commentators, who said it confirmed the Kremlin's paternalistic attitude to political parties rather than a genuine desire for a competitive system.

"In reality, we are not talking about the two legs of society," said Vladimir Pribylovsky of the Panorama think tank. "We are talking about the two hands of the presidential administration."

The new political bloc would likely include the Pensioners' Party, Rodina and the Party of Life.

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