Staunton, April 11 – The United Russia Party which since its inception has positioned itself as “the party of power” wants to become instead “the party of the Putin majority,” a shift which moves it away from a kind of corporatist authoritarian structure to a mass mobilization organization, at least in terms of its primary slogan.
Two days ago, an article in Vedomosti said party activists would be discussing this change before April 30. A source told the daily that the party’s leaders had never queried the membership before on how they viewed the organization and that this discussion represents a mass “focus group” (vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2018/04/09/756295-partiya-vlasti-hochet).
This redefinition process will go through three stages: meetings first in the major cities, then in regional capitals and finally at a party conference now slated to take place in mid-May. The questions that members are asked to discuss are quite intriguing at least on the basis of the one offered in the newspaper.
According to it, United Russia members will be asked among other things the following: “’In Russia, the following things have already been constructed: ‘an Orthodox monarchy,’ ‘a bright communist future,’ and ‘a Western democracy and market in Europe.’ What kind of country will United Russia build?”
Konstantin Kalachev told Vedomosti that the party’s effort to define itself and remain viable is not a bad thing, “but the problem is that it is putting the cart before the horse: the party plays the role of an instrument. Its status as a subject is open to question. Whatever they find in the course of these discussions, the fate of the party is always and in everything to back Putin.”
The political commentator noted that “a party becomes a party when it outlasts its founding father and first leader. But to begin the search as to how the United Russian members should position themselves after Putin would be premature.”
Kalachev doesn’t say, but it is likely that this search and even the suggested redefinition of the party is precisely what Putin wants: he may feel constrained by a party consisting largely of officials and want to have one he can mobilize against those officials, a party as it were of “a new type.”