The discussion with [United Russia’s] core members, who work directly with the party’s mass membership, took place in the run-up to the planned United Russia party congress.
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Opening remarks at meeting with United Russia party core group
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends,
Tomorrow the 14th United Russia party congress will start its work in Moscow. I well remember how we founded this party many years ago now. And over the years United Russia has come a very long way in terms of its own development and made an enormous contribution – and I say this without any undue exaggeration – to that of the country.
Of course, the party that is in power, and has been in power for quite a long time, always carries the responsibility for everything that has been done and has not been done, and the responsibility for any unfulfilled expectations or unsolved problems.
And there is nothing unusual here; this is common practice throughout the world. The issue is simply that we always have to clearly and cogently ascertain why certain things were not done, accurately assess future prospects, and understand how to resolve the problems that worry our citizens.
The party’s very core is gathered here today: you are the people who work directly with our citizens, who see everything that happens in our country, who understand people’s expectations and sympathise with their problems. In essence, you are the citizens who do this for your neighbours, for your colleagues, and in fact you are incorporated into our great country’s daily life.
Elections just took place in practically all regions, and despite the great responsibility I just mentioned, United Russia nevertheless confirmed its leadership. It retained its standing almost everywhere, and in many regions its position was even strengthened.
In this way the party confirmed its status as the most widespread and influential popular party. I want to use this term, popular party [from the Latin populus, people], because [our] emphasis on people has always been constant. And I’m convinced that a long-term historical perspective will confirm that [people are] the basis, the foundation on which the party has relied, and on which its work will continue to be based.
The election campaign took place in an increasingly competitive environment. Suffice to recall that 54 parties took part. By the way, I want to point out that this liberalisation of party life, its expansion, all happened at United Russia’s initiative, something which is extremely important. It was precisely United Russia that was not afraid to increase competition and to strengthen the country’s political system and its multi-party nature by initiating the liberalisation of party life.
This is largely, if not entirely, to United Russia’s credit, because the party holding a parliamentary majority had the power to vote on such a decision. You [oversaw the liberalisation of our political system]. And, as practice shows, you were right to do so. Because this creates better conditions for Russia’s political development, which means, in turn, that more people will benefit. Why? Because when free political competition occurs, first of all, the best candidates rise to the top. Secondly, the best solutions to municipal, regional, and even federal problems are articulated in debates and while searching for the truth.
And finally, the absolute prerequisite for the development of the party itself is increasing intra-party democracy. United Russia has also done quite a lot lately in this respect; I am referring to ‘preparing’ candidates for deputies who are on United Russia party lists.
I am referring to integrating people who are not formally party members, but who share our basic views, into your ranks. And all this will naturally extend the social base the party relies on for support, making it more mobile, viable and efficient.
I very much hope that these tools for intra-party democracy will continue to be refined. Only this way, only by doing this, can United Russia retain its standing as the country’s leading political force.
Finally, to conclude my brief opening remarks, I would like to thank you and the people who work at the regional and federal levels, in Parliament, the State Duma, for the fact that you never slide into populism.
And we always want this to be the case. Everybody does, I assure you. And you want to be attractive to voters and citizens. You want to promise everything, even things that cannot be done in either the short- or the long-term.
We have to make decisions that today at first glance sometimes seem unfair or unreasonable, but in the medium-term they should and will have a positive effect.
In connection with this, here’s what I wanted to say. Never be afraid to go to the people with these proposals. The issue is something quite different: it does not consist in taking away something or giving less of another thing. The issue at stake is offering the most effective solutions to problems and explaining in simple language precisely why this solution, and not another, is on offer.
I am absolutely convinced that when we reach out directly to the people, tell them frankly about the proposed measures, tell them why we are offering this solution in particular, then people will understand everything. Everyone will understand, agree with [the solution] and support it.
Conversely, if something is done behind closed doors, or if you promise unrealistic things and then six months later it turns out that nothing has happened, the outcome will be much worse. Because people will think you are windbags, irresponsible people who are either not able to solve problems, or cannot even articulate them. And at that point a really deep disappointment will set in.
For that reason we must always be honest, straightforward, and easy to understand. And most importantly, one of the most important components of political work, is that everything must happen in a manner that’s normal, friendly and appropriate for Russian citizens. There must not be any arrogance or sense of superiority towards ordinary citizens. This should not occur in any case. But judging by your faces, by your experience, and by what you do and how you do it, I can see that you agree with me.
Thank you very much for your attention.