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Putin to lead pro-Kremlin party in Russian parliamentary poll

Last updated on: October 01, 2007 22:01 IST

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday said he would lead the list of candidates of pro-Kremlin 'United Russia' in the December parliamentary polls and could have a shot at becoming the prime minister, signalling that he may retain some position of power after the end of his term.

At the same time, Putin dismissed any possibility of amending the Constitution to enable him to contest as president for a third consecutive term early next year.

Addressing the delegates and guests at the ruling party's eighth annual Congress, Putin said: "Like most of the citizens of our country, I am not a member of any political party and would not like change affiliation, but I have agreed to lead the federal list of candidates of your party."

The Russian election law allows political parties to field non-party members in the polls.

The Russian leader, whose second consecutive term expires early next year, said it would not be appropriate to change the Constitution for one person.

He, however, did not reject the idea of heading the Cabinet after quitting the Kremlin job, voiced by one of the delegates.

"Heading the government is a realistic idea, but it is too early to think about this now," he said.

"For this we need to do two things, United Russia should sweep the December 2 parliamentary polls and an honest, young and effective president should be elected, with whom I could work in close partnership," Putin said.

Putin reminded the delegates that he was one of the founders of United Russia six years ago.

With unprecedented popularity ever enjoyed by any Russian leader in the country's history, Putin has forced Kremlin watchers and sympathisers to guess about his future plans after relinquishing the top job in the spring of 2008.

Political analysts in Moscow said there was nothing in Russian law that would forbid Putin from running for a seat in the legislature while remaining president.

Addressing the delegates and guests, including an 11-member Indian delegation led by Congress leader Margaret Alva, President Putin noted, 'United Russia' party is the largest political force in the country.

After the "shock therapy" of the 1990s, 1998 devaluation of the rouble and "tragic events in the Caucasus" (Chechnya war), Russia needed a political force to unite the country and restore stability forĀ economic growth, Putin said.

He lauded United Russia, which enjoys a majority in the state Duma, for rapidly adopting "crucial laws" for the economic and social development of the country.

The combat against corruption, narrowing the rich-poor divide, the growth of economy were identified by Putin as some of the main tasks to be tackled by the country.

He spoke against fielding major businessmen as their candidates by various political parties, calling for the separation of "power and money."

According to him, big businessmen are "people of high esteem and very much depends on them" but "power and money should exist separately."

Vinay Shukla in Moscow
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