Monday, January 9, 2017

Kremlin Rapidly Transforming United Russia into the CPSU of Today

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 9 – Later this month, the United Russia Party will hold a party congress at which it is slated to dispense with ideological programs, but Igor Dmitriyev says that the ruling party will also formalize steps already being taken to transform the current party “into the very same vertical of party power which existed in Soviet times.”

            On the Versiya portal today, the analyst says that ever more decisions about ever more actions of United Russia are being taken at the center behind the scenes and then imposed on the party’s deputies at all levels who have ever fewer chances to diverge from the party line and represent local interests (

                This trend was begun when Vladislav Surkov was deputy head of the Presidential Administration and it has been accelerated under that body’s new leaders, Anton Vayno and Sergey Kiriyenko, Dmitriyev says; and now party leaders openly speak about United Russia reclaiming “the former party power” the CPSU had.

            As usual in Putin’s Russia, this shift has not been announced in any comprehensive program but rather reflects a series of steps, each of which is leading to the outcome the Kremlin wants.  Among these are new controls on the activities of United Russia deputies in the State Duma.

            Not only has Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin cut the amount of time United Russia deputies spend in their home districts from two weeks a month to one but the central office of United Russia has imposed ever tighter controls over what the deputies do when they are in their districts and new fines on any who miss sessions without an acceptable excuse.

            From now on, Dmitriyev writes, “party functionaries will begin to decide everything for the deputies. Oblast, kray, republic and city executive committees of United Russia will begin to prepare a plan for the activities of Duma members during their regional weeks,” with the party’s central office already outlining what measures are required.

            As a result of this, Duma deputies will spend less time in their districts and more time in Moscow, cutting them off from those who at least nominally they represent. But even more, these actions will “establish a firm vertical of party power,” that will reinforce or in some places take the place of the state vertical that Putin introduced earlier. It will watch the other, of course.

            Vladimir Burmatov, the head of United Russia’s Central Executive Committee, has downplayed these changes, declaring that “no one will require the deputies” to behave in any particular way and that “we are only proposing formats and creating conditions for their interaction with citizens.”

            But Dmitriyev says, there is a great deal of compulsion behind these nominally “voluntary” recommendations, again just like in Soviet times. And he says that in this way, “a super-centralized system has been established in Russia in which all key decisions are being taken at the federal center.”

            United Russia is thus being integrated into that system and is moving in ways that recall “the practices which triumphed in the USSR. Then, too, all parliamentary decisions were initially taken and confirmed in the bowels of the ruling party and the deputies then followed them with their votes.”

            And this restoration, the Versiya writer continues, raises the prospect that just as with the CPSU, so too with United Russia, expulsion from the party will be the ultimate discipline used against anyone who challenges these arrangements.  Moreover, he notes, this form of control is now being extended downward into regional assemblies as well.

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