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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

United Russia Outlines Its Plans

Gearing up for December's parliamentary elections, the United Russia party presented the basics of its platform Wednesday -- a heady mix of support for President Vladimir Putin, a resounding "no" to revolutionary reforms, and populist measures to win the support of disgruntled voters.

"United Russia will try to attract all supporters of the president. That is our aim. We want to become the party that represents the interests of the country's majority," Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, one of the party's leaders, told reporters.

Aside from dancing to the Kremlin's tune, however, the party -- slapped together in 1999 expressly to support Putin -- hopes to help write the music.

"Kremlin policy must be supported, but ... I think we can shape that policy. That is our aim," Gryzlov said.

This election year -- with pipes freezing, salaries low and sweeping reforms in vital sectors like housing and electricity threatening to put a strain on voters' pockets -- politicians are trying to tap into public discontent over the low standard of living.

According to Gryzlov and his fellow party leaders, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu and Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, United Russia has been working hard to collect public feedback about government policy. As part of its drive to win public support, United Russia announced last year that it would act as a watchdog to ensure the timely payment of public-sector wages. Gryzlov said the party has identified some of the worst debtor regions and squeezed an additional 200 million rubles ($6.25 million) out of the federal government to cover wage arrears. The party also plans to establish a pager hot line in each of its 89 regional offices to field complaints about bureaucrats and other problems.

The party leaders, who claimed 300,000 members nationwide, said United Russia has not yet formed a list of candidates for State Duma elections but will do so at a party conference March 29. Shoigu called the list the most sensitive issue on the agenda.

Gryzlov promised that there will be some changes to the party's charter as well as some personnel changes -- which could indicate the further sidelining of Alexander Bespalov, head of United Russia's general council.

The party leaders also denied reports that Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Duma's foreign affairs committee, had been offered a top post with the party, and Gryzlov said he has no plans to step down as interior minister.

Asked about their economic policy, the party leaders said they support market principles but the government should have a coordinating role in the economy. "Work on a capitalist basis and distribute on a social basis and you will always have the public's support," Luzhkov said.