Russian President Vladimir Putin:
Distinguished delegates, guests of the Congress!
Today, in this room there are scientists and engineers, doctors and teachers, businessmen, workers, artists and journalists, military personnel and builders, fishermen, agricultural workers, pensioners, young people, representatives of various public organisations, all the regions and all the peoples of Russia.
At first glance, we are very different people. But all of us are united by a love of Russia, a desire to make it even more beautiful and powerful, and to make the life of our citizens more dignified and prosperous. And that is why all of us kindred spirits have gathered here today.
At the outset, United Russia was conceived and founded as a political organisation, designed to consolidate the responsible, constructive forces of Russian society. It set out to gather together and engage in creative work all those who refused to tolerate the degradation and collapse of the economy and the social sphere, the state system and our democratic institutions. To bring together those who sincerely wanted our country’s thousand-year history, history of our Motherland, not to die out but to continue. Those who wanted our Motherland to become competitive, to raise its standard of living, to be respected by the international community, and to become a free country of free people.
It has been almost seven years, and now we can say with some assurance that United Russia has managed to unite the most diverse social groups in a spirit of cooperation. The party has proved that it can work in the interests of Russia, in the interests of its citizens, for the successful future of our country and our people.
The concerted efforts of millions of people have helped us to extricate ourselves from a full-scale crisis and to inflict some crushing blows on terrorism. We have taken the very first, very timid perhaps, yet significant steps to address widespread poverty, upgrade infrastructure and modernise the armed forces. We have built the foundations for an innovative economy, and articulated an active and independent foreign policy aimed at strengthening our country’s position in the world.
I am absolutely convinced that without your participation, without the contribution of United Russia in addressing all these challenges as part of our common cause, we would not have been able to accomplish anything like the positive achievements of the few past years.
At the 8th Congress of United Russia, you will remember that I said that, once my term as President was complete, I would be prepared to participate actively in our country’s political life. This depended on United Russia’s winning the parliamentary elections to the State Duma and the election of a new President with whom I could work in tandem.
United Russia won the election and I would like to congratulate you once again, and once again to thank the voters and citizens of Russia for giving us the benefit of their trust. Dmitry Medvedev, the very man that I recommended to the country and the electorate, has been elected President of Russia. I have therefore accepted his proposal, one that was supported by United Russia and other parties, to head the Government of the Russian Federation in accordance with the timeframe stipulated in the Constitution.
In 1999 and 2000 I had the privilege to work as Prime Minister. And I know that this work requires daily consultations with deputies and the help of our supporters in the Federal Assembly. It requires complete immersion in current economic and administrative affairs.
It is not possible to lead the Government without constant and extensive contacts with the regions, public associations, trade unions, expert panels, and direct contacts with Russian citizens. In this respect the party's organisational structure could become an important instrument of influence and, no less important, one that provides feedback.
As I have repeatedly said, and my opinion on this matter remains the same today, I would consider it inappropriate if the head of state, no matter his political sympathies, were to head one of the parties. And here I fully agree with Dmitry Anatolevich Medvedev. As for the Prime Minister, the fact that the head of a party occupies the position of Prime Minister is a perfectly civilised, natural and traditional practice for democratic states. Harmonious work between the cabinet and the parliamentary majority offers an opportunity to successfully meet the challenges of economic development, improve the quality of health care and education, increase the incomes of our citizens and strengthen the defense capabilities of our nation.
Therefore, I gladly accept the offer of the members of the party and its leadership. Thank you very much. I am ready to take on the additional responsibility and to lead United Russia.
However (and I have said this before but wish to repeat it here), I am suggesting the following. First of all, that the decision taken at this congress, if it is implemented, take effect only after the elected head of state takes office. And, accordingly, after my presidential powers have been annulled.
Second. I would ask Boris Vyacheslavovich Gryzlov to continue to coordinate all the current activities of the party.
Third. The party, as I have said more than once, should be reformed. Actually, this is now happening right before our eyes. It must become more open to discussions and take the views of voters into account. We must reduce bureaucracy and eliminate from its ranks the random people who are simply there to pursue their selfish interests. It must work more actively with young people, intellectuals, businessmen, urban workers and those in rural areas. It must help attract the most talented, energetic and decent professionals into all areas of public life.
Times are changing. A lot of new, interesting things lie ahead. We are renewing all the components of our society. And the Russian political system must evolve adequately to meet these changes.
There is one thing — and perhaps the most important thing – that doesn't change, namely the people's desire to live a dignified life, their desire for freedom, for justice and prosperity. Our obligation is to contribute to the achievement of these goals. Here lies the true meaning of all our joint work.