Russia to hold parliamentary elections Dec 4: Kremlin
Russia is to hold parliamentary elections on December 4, President Dmitry Medvedev announced Monday, kicking off a political season that will culminate in March presidential polls.
Medvedev informed party leaders of his decision and then signed the corresponding decree fixing the date for the elections for the State Duma lower house, Russian state news agencies reported.
"The decree sets December 4 as the date for the State Duma elections. It comes into force the moment it is published officially," Medvedev said at the meeting at his summer residence in the Black Sea city of Sochi.
The parliamentary polls will see the ruling United Russia party seek to keep its dominance in the State Duma, which over the last few years has become mostly a rubber stamp for Kremlin and government decisions.
Criticism from the Communists, nationalist Liberal Democratic Party and the supposedly oppositional A Just Russia has been insipid in recent years. The liberal opposition has no seats in this parliament.
However these elections will be the first for the pro-business Right Cause party under its billionaire new leader Mikhail Prokhorov, who has promised to turn the party into a force capable of challenging United Russia.
Prokhorov, once Russia's richest man and the current owner of US basketball team New Jersey Nets, has brought a fresh tone to Russian politics. However sceptics argue even his party has implicit Kremlin backing.
The parliamentary elections will come just three months ahead of presidential elections, due in March but whose date has yet to be officially confirmed.
It remains a mystery whether Medvedev will stand for a second term or if his mentor who occupied the Kremlin from 2000-2008 -- Prime Minister Vladimir Putin -- will stand for a new mandate.
Both men have given only the most enigmatic signals about their intentions, making clear only that they will not stand against each other and that the decision will be announced soon.
Pictures released over the summer of the two men harmoniosuly fishing together on the Volga may or may not be a coded message that the decision has already been reached.
United Russia -- whose overall leader is Putin -- is to hold its annual congress in Moscow on September 23-24. The glitzy meeting could be the place for a major announcement.
Curiously, Medvedev's announcement coincided with a statement from the Valdai Club -- an international group of Kremlinologists who meet annually with the Russian leadership -- that their 2011 gathering will be held in November.
Previous meetings have always taken part in September and both Medvedev and Putin have always used the forum to make statements regarding their political ambitions.
The subject of this year's meeting is "Elections 2011-2012 and the Future of Russia. Scenarios of Development for the Next 5-8 Years", the Valdai Club said, clearly implying that substantial announcements are expected.
The delay in the meeting could mean Russia's leadership wants all the decisions for the future to be ready when they meet the experts. Participants will meet with Putin, the statement added.
© 2011 AFP