Putin could lead Russia's biggest party: Speaker

Vladimir Putin could become leader of Russia's biggest party this month, bolstering his influence once he leaves the presidency, the head of the upper house of parliament was quoted as saying on Monday.

Putin could lead Russia's biggest party:  Speaker
Putin's eight-year presidency comes to an end on May 7 when his successor and protege, Dmitry Medvedev, is sworn in as Russia's new leader after winning election in March.

Putin is to become prime minister, but leadership of the United Russia party, with its huge majority in parliament, would entrench his position. The president can sack the prime minister but he needs parliament's approval to appoint a new one.

The outgoing Russian leader already has close ties to United Russia. He was instrumental in founding the party and headed its election slate in a parliamentary election last year.

Now Putin could lead the party, possibly at its congress this month, upper house speaker Sergei Mironov told the Kommersant newspaper.

"I would not be surprised if the Kremlin leadership of United Russia in the near future was even more personified at the very highest level," Mironov told the newspaper.

Asked if he meant that Putin could become leader of the party at this month's party conference, he said: "It seems to me that is possible."

"The president should, in my opinion, be a non-party figure. Perhaps this would be better also for the prime minister. But I understand why Vladimir Putin could head United Russia."

Putin, a 55-year-old former KGB spy, is stepping down in line with a constitutional term limit. He endorsed Medvdedev as his replacement, helping the 42-year-old former lawyer to an easy victory in last month's presidential election.

Some analysts say Putin, and not Medvedev, will hold the real power after the change-over.

Even without heading United Russia, Putin is set to become the most powerful Russian prime minister since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Mironov, a former geologist, has pushed for Putin to stay on for a third term, an option the Russian leader eventually rejected. Mironov's comments are closely watched as he is thought to be linked to factions inside the Kremlin.

Mironov also heads a pro-Kremlin party that competes with United Russia and he has frequent public tiffs with United Russia leader Boris Gryzlov.

United Russia holds its party conference on April 14-15. Putin used a party conference last year to announce he could work as prime minister after stepping down as president.

In the December 2007 parliamentary election, United Russia won 315 of the 450 seats in the lower house of parliament.
Last Mod: 07 Nisan 2008, 13:04
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