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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

United Russia to Adopt Platform

United Russia will adopt a platform calling for a strong, centralized state and free-market reforms as it heads toward the 2007 State Duma elections, two party members said Monday.

The improbable concoction -- welding together Russia's old, statist tradition with 21st-century economic thinking -- has been dubbed "social conservatism" by United Russia leaders.

While ideology has had little to do with political parties' fortunes in recent years, the Kremlin has sent signals to United Russia leaders that they should adopt a platform to preempt criticism from the West, analysts said.

Many of United Russia's opponents, including Communist Party head Gennady Zyuganov and Yabloko chairman Grigory Yavlinsky, have called the party little more than President Vladimir Putin's prop and not a real party with a substantive, ideological framework or a concrete set of policy prescriptions.

"We are the only influential party in Russia," Duma Deputy Speaker Oleg Morozov, a party official, told United Russia's governing council Saturday. "We are the successors of the history of all Russian governments. ... Unlike the rightists and the leftists, we are the successors of both tsarist and socialist Russia."

Morozov added: "To be faithful to the centuries-old tradition of serving the fatherland is our ... conservatism."

Andrei Isayev, chairman of the Duma's Labor and Social Policy Committee and a party official, said social conservatism would feature a "strong state," presumably modeled after Putin's government; "market-oriented reforms"; and robust national defense.

"There is a debate taking place in Russia about what the country's role in the world should be," Isayev said. "The isolationists call for a new iron curtain; the liberals, for Russia to join the EU at any cost. United Russia is positioning itself squarely in the middle of this debate. We are for a strong government that is able to oppose the conflict among these different ideological clans."

Isayev, who is also a deputy chairman of the pro-Kremlin Federation of Independent Labor Unions, added that United Russia was looking to incorporate social reforms but would consult with union leaders first.

Isayev declined to elaborate on which reforms the party would pursue.

Dmitry Orlov, a political analyst with the Agency for Political and Economic Communications, a think tank, suggested the new platform would give United Russia ideological flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances.

"They will use center-left and center-right ideas, the policies depending on the situation," Orlov said.

Isayev said the first draft of the party platform would be completed by October, at which time it would be distributed to party members for discussion. A final draft, he said, would be presented at a Dec. 2 party meeting.

Igor Igoshin, deputy chairman of the Duma's Budget and Taxes Committee, said the platform sought to incorporate a range of views inside the party.

But social conservatism's advent appears to have less to do with party factions -- or even domestic politics -- and more with the international community.

"Surkov told them it was necessary to come up with an ideology before the elections, and they are simply following his orders," said Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank, referring to a February meeting at which Putin's chief of staff, Vladislav Surkov, urged party leaders to hammer out an ideological program. Referring to Surkov, Pribylovsky added: "He understands that ideology is not the most important thing to win elections in Russia -- administrative resources are what really matters -- but the West can criticize a party elected without any principles, or ideology, and they are getting ready to avoid any kind of criticism."