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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Party of Life to Use Putin's Face in Ads

The tiny Party of Life is banking on President Vladimir Putin's face to win seats in the Lipetsk regional legislature next month.

Led by Federation Council Speaker and Putin ally Sergei Mironov, the party last month secured the president's permission to use his image in campaign literature.

"We just sent a letter to Putin asking for permission to use his pictures, and he agreed," Nikolai Levichev, the party's deputy head, said Monday.

Monday's development follows the Party of Life's merger in August with the Pensioners' Party and the Rodina party. The merger is widely seen as a Kremlin-orchestrated effort to create a loyal, center-left party to counterbalance the loyal, center-right party United Russia.

Margarita Cherkashina, secretary of the Lipetsk region electoral commission, said Putin's Aug. 3 letter approving the use of his image had been delivered to her office Friday.

The elections will be held Oct. 8. The Party of Life's regional ticket is headed by Mironov.

Kremlin spokesman Andrei Varlamov confirmed that the president had granted permission to the Party of Life to use his image. He added that similar permission had been given to Valentina Matviyenko in 2003, when she ran successfully for St. Petersburg mayor.

The Party of Life has submitted plans to the Lipetsk electoral commission for a billboard featuring Putin and Mironov sitting at a table facing each other, said Boris Lunev, the electoral commission's deputy chairman. Lunev said the party planned to install 10 such billboards; each billboard is expected to be 3 meters high and 6 meters wide.

Officials from the Lipetsk branch of United Russia said the Party of Life's new marketing ploy would give them few headaches.

"We go into the elections under the slogan 'United Russia is a party of real accomplishments,' rather than simply trying to boost our recognition by using the president's popularity," said Valery Dzyubenko, head of United Russia's Lipetsk regional executive committee.

United Russia's regional ticket is topped by Governor Oleg Korolyov; the regional legislature's speaker, Pavel Putilin; and Lipetsk Mayor Mikhail Gulevsky.

The president's move permitting the Party of Life to use his face is meant to send a signal to regional bosses loyal to United Russia that they should not block the Party of Life this fall, said Alexei Makarkin, of the Center for Political Technologies.

In September, a court in the republic of Tuva cancelled the Party of Life's registration for local parliamentary elections. In August, the party was denied registration to run in the Sverdlovsk region. "Now, I suspect, there will be fewer officials willing to throw dirt on our print materials, with President Putin's photograph on them," Levichev said. In the past, he said, the party was hindered by officials who intimidated activists and destroyed campaign materials.

Until recently, the party was relatively low-profile. In the 2003 parliamentary elections, it garnered less than 2 percent of the vote.