President Putin has delivered telling criticism of United Russia, the party whose list he heads for the 2 December Duma elections.
"The party has no stable political ideology or principles for which the overwhelming majority of members are ready to fight. ... And, as a rule, being close to those in power, as United Russia is, all kind of crooks try to latch on to it, often with success"
The irony of Putin’s comments is that United Russia’s policy can be summated as slavish deferral to the Kremlin and Putin himself. The lack of political ideology and principles merely illustrates the relative lack of importance of Russia's parliament and the party system to the Federation’s governance.
Putin views the upcoming election as a referendum on the continuance of his personal power. Heading United Russia's list is fairly transparently, merely a vehicle by which to achieve this aim.
"If the people vote for United Russia, whose list I lead, it means that they trust me and, in turn, means that I will have the moral right to hold those in the Duma and the Cabinet responsible for the implementation of the objectives that have been identified so far,"
The President’s observations will doubtless increase speculation as to his exact intentions after the election and when his second term elapses in March of next year.
Putin has restored national self-esteem on the world stage and engineered an oil and gas based economic recovery in Russia. However he has done little to develop civic structures in the country. The national identity Putin has rejuventaed cleaves to traditional nationalist symbols such as the Orthodox Church and to his own personal popularity. The weakness of parliamentary politics, the lack of strong civic institutions, the corresponding underdeveloped sense of civic identity and a pandering to ethnic policies in the Federation's regions, mean that Putin's departure from the public life would create a political vacuum in Russia. His statements appear to reaffirm that he is only to aware of this.