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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

4 Duma Factions Forge Pro-Putin Union

Four parties that usually back President Vladimir Putin in the State Duma pledged on Tuesday to work together, formalizing their cooperation and giving another boost to the Kremlin leader.

The parties said they would form a coordinating council to cement their cooperation in the lower house and said they planned to move later toward a coalition.

Russia's Regions and People's Deputy — two small centrist factions — joined with Fatherland-All Russia and the main pro-Kremlin party, Unity. The decision was announced days after Unity and Fatherland, two former adversaries, said they were to merge by November.

The head of the Fatherland faction, former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, said the new council would coordinate the position of the four groups on economic and political issues.

"Priority will be given to documents proposed by the president and the government," he told reporters.

One of the council's main goals is to "counteract attempts to use the Duma in the interests of individual political or financial-industrial groups," said a statement signed by the four faction leaders.

The statement, reported by Interfax, said another of the council's priorities is to "form a coalition of factions that would create a stable majority in parliament."

Putin already enjoys wide support in the Duma. The council would formalize the cooperation the parties have in backing Putin's legislation and helping him reach a majority in the house.

The Unity-Fatherland merger was already set to make the largest single force in parliament with 131 seats. The main opposition group, the Communists and their allies, would be the second-largest force with 129 seats.

Together, the four pro-Kremlin factions have more than the 226 needed for a majority in the 450-member Duma.

The council will include three members of each faction and be chaired by faction leaders in rotation, beginning with Oleg Morozov of Russia's Regions.

Meanwhile, other parties said the council may become a valuable political tool for Putin. Alexei Mitrofanov of the Liberal Democratic Party said the strategy may backfire if the Kremlin cannot retain control over its leaders, NTV television reported.

Unity and Fatherland were each created as reform-minded parties of power in the runup to the 1999 parliamentary and 2000 presidential elections. The key difference between them was who each would support as the next president.

(Reuters, AP, MT)