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All-Russia People’s Front seeks to become independent political force

November 22, 2012, 15:28 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, November 22 (Itar-Tass) — The All-Russia People’s Front, created at the initiative of President Vladimir Putin, has not only retained a firm foothold on the political scene, contrary to what some political scientists had predicted, but on the contrary is contesting the status of an independent political player. The front is distancing itself from United Russia, which formally is its member. In fact it is already competing with the ruling party in some regions.

It has been announced that the APRF’s constituent congress is due in May next year. By that time the organizing committees for holding the congress will be formed in all regions of the country. At the first technical meeting, held on November 8 with the first deputy chief of the presidential staff Vyacheslav Volodin taking part, some State Duma members were elected as APRF coordinators in the federal districts.

The APRF has its own ideological platforms. So far a decision has been made to create three discussion floors – a floor for inter-ethnic issues, a ‘creative class’ floor, and a floor for the protection of working people’s rights.

The APRF will be getting recommendations from the Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Research – a think tank under Dmitry Badovsky, who just recently left the position of the deputy chief of the presidential staff’s internal policy department.

Currently active work is afoot in the regions for drawing a border line between the APRF and United Russia. The chiefs of APRF’s regional chapters are being replaced by non-affiliated figures. According to the mass media, the chief of the APRF central office, State Duma member Vyacheslav Lysakov, is in charge of this campaign.

However, Lysakov himself has said more than once that no “divorce” with the ruling party is on the agenda. United Russia, he reiterated, remained the APRF’s main partner and ally.

The idea of the APRF was put forward in May 2011 by the then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The main idea was to pool non-governmental organizations, political parties and individuals who share United Russia’s ideas and values. The APRF members were included in the election lists of United Russia at the December 2011 State Duma elections.

The situation has changed a great deal since. Putin has taken the position of the head of state again, while the current prime-minister, former president Dmitry Medvedev, is leading United Russia instead of Putin. APRF deputies, who are members of the United Russia faction in the State Duma, have begun to come out with independent initiatives, far from always welcomed by the ruling party. The delimitation between the two political pillars of the authorities has begun to be felt ever stronger, and at a certain point experts started wondering what would happen to the APRF. Many predicted its premature death.

However, at last October’s meeting Vladimir Putin held with the APRF activists the head of state breathed a new life into the APRF by suggesting that a constituent congress of the front should be convened next spring. However, he warned that the APRF should not be turned into a political party, although there have been proposals to this effect. The president believes that converting the front into a party would restrict the framework of a wide coalition the front constitutes at the moment.

Analysts do not rule out, however, that at some future date the APRF may be turned into a party. The daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta believes that in the future, in the run-up to the next parliamentary and presidential elections Putin may need his own political structure and a party apparatus that would be working for his re-election. The APRF is the sole force that will be able to perform this function.

“United Russia has a different leader – Dmitry Medvedev. The former ruling duo is unlikely to agree to change places again and to take turns at the helm of United Russia,” the daily said.

For the time being the APRF will work as an “effective communicator” between Putin and Russia’s citizens, and also exercise control of the new parties that may be emerging in the wake of the liberalization of party legislation. The Kremlin’s political technologists are certain that all new parties will have to be put on the right, constructive track.

The way they see it, the APRF is to be turned into a major supra-party association. It would incorporate a large share of the newly-registered political organizations, which, according to some experts will number about a hundred toward the end of the year. After that the authorities may formally allow political blocs to take part in elections. The existing legislative initiatives, according to unofficial sources quoted by the portal, are already being drafted by a number of experts close to the Central Election Commission.