MOSCOW – The ruling United Russia party on Sunday formally named Vladimir V. Putin its candidate for president in elections scheduled for March 4. Putin, the current prime minister and former president, intends to swap jobs with incumbent President Dmitry Medvedev.
Putin and Medvedev both spoke at the party gathering, and both touched on the need to “develop” Russia’s young democracy. Medvedev said Russia needs to find a better balance between federal and local authority, which could be taken as a gentle slap at Putin’s theory of the “vertical of power.” Medvedev also noted, to a momentarily silent hall, that people are fed up with corruption and stupidity. He has made such remarks before but done nothing to follow up on them.
Putin spoke in favor of new taxes on luxury goods, and he called on voters to remember how much better off they are than they were 10 years ago, when he first came to power. They’ll have a chance to do so next week, when Russia elects a new parliament.
United Russia is not as popular as it once was. Its opponents call it the “party of crooks and thieves,” and it’s a name that has stuck. But there’s no well-organized opposition, other than the tamed Communists and Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s nationalists. Speakers Sunday lamented the “irresponsible” opposition that they face.
“Our victory will not only be good for the country,” Medvedev said, “but essential.”