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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Troika, Just Putin for 'Party Of Power'

United Russia walked away from the tradition of naming a super trio to represent parties in State Duma elections, leaving only one name on its federal ticket: President Vladimir Putin.

"We will have a surprise for you," party leader and Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov told reporters minutes before the party's pre-election convention began its second and final session at the Gostiny Dvor shopping center.

The decision to have Putin go solo on the federal ticket -- which delegates approved in a 476-3 vote -- means ballots in the Dec. 2 election will have only the president's name on the "United Russia" line, followed by the names of the candidates from the party's regional ticket.

Leading politicians who had been expected to appear on the federal ticket will appear on regional lists instead.

Gryzlov will be running as No. 1 on the St. Petersburg ticket, ahead of the city's governor, Valentina Matviyenko, whose inclusion on the federal ticket had been discussed until the last minute.

Sergei Shoigu, the popular emergency situations minister and a loyal Putin ally, will head up the Stavropol regional list, followed by wrestling champion and Duma Deputy Alexander Karelin.

The decision to dispatch Shoigu to the Stavropol region may help shore up United Russia's chances there. In regional legislature elections in March, the party fared worse in Stavropol than anywhere else, losing to A Just Russia, the rival pro-Kremlin party headed by Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov.

"We need someone really strong and active in Stavropol, so that A Just Russia and others have no chances there," said a delegate from Khakasia who refused to give his name.

The unprecedented decision to have Putin run alone is clearly intended to use his popularity for United Russia's benefit, analysts said.

"They want the maximum possible result in these elections, and this can only be achieved with the most direct and tight connection to Putin," said Sergei Mikheyev, an analyst with the Center for Political Technologies.

Party leaders may have felt that no other politicians had the stature to be on the same ticket as the president, said Masha Lipman, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center.

"It's possible they decided that nobody could stand in the same row with Putin," Lipman said.

A survey conducted by the VTsIOM polling center last month seems to confirm that Putin's total identification with United Russia will help the party blow its competitors out of the water.

When asked whether they would vote for "Putin's party" in the upcoming Duma elections, 55 percent of respondents said yes.

Second place went to "Zyuganov's party" with 6 percent, while "Zhirinovsky's party" got 4 percent and "Mironov's party" got a mere 2 percent. Gennady Zyuganov leads the Communists, while Vladimir Zhirinovsky leads the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party.

Communist Duma Deputy Viktor Ilyukhin said he was "very surprised" to learn that United Russia would have only Putin as its front-runner.

"If United Russia decided to put only Putin on the top of its list, this means that they don't have other worthy or clever candidates," Ilyukhin said.

Ilyukhin also questioned whether it was legal for parties to have a single candidate, instead of a "troika" of three candidates, on their ticket.

But Andrei Goltsov, a lawyer who specializes in constitutional law, said it was legal. "The so-called troika is more a tradition in Russia," Goltsov said. "It is used to give a face to the party."

A Just Russia is remaining calm, said Sergei Shargunov, head of the party's youth wing and No. 3 on its federal ticket. "The president saved United Russia," Shargunov said. "The party in itself is not strong enough to take part in the elections independently."

Notable figures on United Russia's regional lists include Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who heads the list for Moscow, followed by Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov, one of the four party members represented in the Cabinet.

Another partisan Cabinet member, Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev, tops the list in his native Perm region, where he was a governor before Putin called him into the government.

In all, more than 50 of the party's 83 regional lists are headed by regional leaders. The exceptions are in places where the leaders have fared badly.

These include the North Caucasus republics of Ingushetia and Karachayevo-Cherkessia. Ingushetia has been plagued by violence that its president, Murat Zyazikov, has been unable to curb, while Karachayevo-Cherkessia's leader, Mustafa Badtyev, is still smarting from the conviction of his son-in-law for multiple murders, which led angry mobs to storm government offices.

United Russia also purged its party lists of businessmen after Putin said Monday that "power and money should exist separately," First Deputy Duma Speaker Lyubov Sliska said at the convention, Itar-Tass reported.

"Under the president, it's necessary to clean up the lists," Sliska said.

In the 2003 Duma elections, nearly all of Russia's big companies had representatives on United Russia's party lists. About 20 percent of the candidates represented big national businesses, including oil companies like LUKoil, Yukos and Sibneft.