[On June 11, the All-Russia People’s Front is set to host its inaugural party congress, at which Vladimir Putin is expected to be in attendance. Rumors are circulating in the Russian press that the Front will replace United Russia, a party put together a decade ago as a vehicle for Putin’s Kremlin ascendancy, as the main political organization in Russia. United Russia has been dogged by corruption scandals and mounting popular disapproval. Below, pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia assesses the imminent purge within United Russia’s ranks. — Ed.]
United Russia has started a revision of personal data on all the party members who will run for offices at all levels of government. Also, all the transactions related to the financing of party activities will be reviewed. These measures are taken in connection with the upcoming general elections on September 8, and could result in some purges. Izvestia got this information from different high-ranking sources within the party.
For the record, United Russia officials say that they review the party member lists before each elections. Off the record, the party explains that this time, because of the scandals around the Bilalov brothers and the Mayor of Makhachkala, Said Amirov, that exercise could be much more large-scale and thorough than usual.
“Such scandals are a strong blow to the party’s image. We are trying to avoid any such scandals going forward, that’s why we would like to get rid of those who threaten the credibility of United Russia. We have to get rid of those people, including by purging party ranks,” one party official said.
Earlier this month the security services arrested Said Amirov, the Mayor of Makhachkala. He was accused of complicity in the murder of an investigator, Arsen Gadjibekov. Amirov has been the leader of the city branch of the United Russia, and the members of the local political council of the UR even signed a petition in his support. In the end the regional party leadership had to distance from the statements of the lower level officials . Also, the party had to get rid of one of the co-owners of the JSC “Krasnaya Polyana” Magomed Bilalov. After Vladimir Putin blasted the company’s CEO Akmed Bilalov for failing to ensure timely construction of Olympic facilities in Sochi, the media made sure that the fact of his brother Magomed managing the regional party support fund does not escape public attention. That fund served as a mechanism to finance the UR. In the end, like the Izvestia reported earlier, Bilalov was fired.
It was the Bilalov story that prompted the United Russia to initiate an inspection of its own support funds. The audit will also cover candidates running for municipal and regional legislative assemblies, for local mayors, as well as regional governors. Altogether it could be as much as tens of thousands of party members. United Russia promises that the auditors will closely examine all the information on the politicians, check their personal records, income declarations, etc. Of particular interest for the auditors will be major purchases, business transactions and property abroad.
“In order to make sure nothing is missed, personal data could be submitted for verification to the special services,” one of the Izvestia sources noted.
“It looks like they are planning some overhaul of their leadership. They have to get rid of some people, that’s why they came up with this excuse. If they got really serious about a purge, there would be no members left in that party,” Vadim Solovyov, a Communist Party secretary said.
“If United Russia managed to do everything exactly as they promised, that would be a positive experience. However, most likely just a few local party or public officials will lose their jobs, that’s all that will happen,” Anna Lunyova, the Deputy Director of the Political Information Center agrees. “A real audit of income and expense accounts without any statutes of limitations would produce some shocking results.”