MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev took aim at Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s new “All-Russian People’s Front” Thursday, saying no party can consider itself dominant by default and vowing to ensure political competition.
Putin and Medvedev have avoided saying which of them will run in the March 2012 presidential vote, though Putin has created a new movement to broaden the base of his ruling party and increase support before the December parliamentary election.
When asked if he supported Putin’s creation of the front, Medvedev chuckled but avoided a direct answer, saying that the job of the Russian president was to ensure proper political competition to preserve stability.
“The electoral fray is still ahead. No single political force can consider itself dominant,” Medvedev told executives from Russia’s state media holding, adding that a political system where everything was decided in advance has “no future.”
“My task in this situation is to ensure that the electoral legislation... is adhered to correctly and that the necessary political competition is created in the political arena inside the country. Only then will our political system be stable.”
Analysts say Putin, who is seen by most Russians as the country’s paramount leader, wants to use the creation of an “All-Russian People’s Front” to consolidate his power base for a potential presidential bid after the parliamentary election.
“We are united by common views and strategic goals. This is first of all strengthening Russia’s unity,” Putin told activists from the movement at a meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Putin, who steered Medvedev into the Kremlin in 2008 when the constitution prevented the former KGB spy from serving a third consecutive term as president, said he had gained his protege’s support for the initiative.
“We discussed it with Dmitry Anatolyevich (Medvedev), and he is supporting what we do here,” said Putin, who spoke before Medvedev’s meeting with state television executives.
Critics say United Russia, which says it supports all of Putin’s policies, resembles the Soviet-era Communist Party because of its dominance over domestic politics and its lack of innovative ideas.
Polls show the party’s approval ratings have been falling: It enjoyed only 55 percent support in April according to the Levada pollsters, compared with 62 percent last October.
Medvedev suggested Putin’s idea to reinvent the party was an attempt to preserve its influence.
“I understand the motives of the party which wants to preserve its influence in the country and this is the creation of an electoral alliance of sorts,” Medvedev was shown saying on state television.
United Russia holds 315 of 450 seats in Russia’s Duma, or lower house of parliament, but has said it is prepared to allot 150 places in its 600-strong election list to representatives of groups which will join the new movement.
United Russia Chairman Boris Gryzlov said the movement could be an important vehicle for support of a presidential candidate.
Editing by Mark Heinrich