Russia's Putin calls for broad coalition ahead of polls
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday invited political parties and organisations to join forces with his ruling United Russia party ahead of parliamentary and presidential polls in Russia.
He also came out with a surprise initiative to establish a government agency to support youth and embattled non-governmental organisations in a possible attempt to win votes of young educated Russians ahead of the elections.
Putin said in a marathon address to members of his United Russia party that he wanted everyone from youth and women's organisations to trade unions to help his party select candidates for the December elections.
"I am essentially proposing that we form something that in political practice is called a broad people's front," Putin said to applause and cries of "Bravo!" from the audience.
"I thank you for this reaction -- for the support," a smiling Putin added in nationally televised remarks.
"This type of unification of the efforts of the various political forces ahead of major political events -- it has been and continues to be practiced in different countries, in different times and by different political forces," the country's paramount leader said.
Putin said he wanted the list of the party's parliamentary candidates to be formed by August and approved by United Russia in September.
December's elections are seen as a rehearsal for presidential polls in March in which Putin, Russia's most popular politician, and President Dmitry Medvedev are considering running.
Neither one has confirmed he would run however and analysts say competition between the two men is intensifying as Medvedev wants to stay in the Kremlin and Putin shows no willingness to retire.
Putin also called on Russia's young and talented to participate in the country's decision-making.
"There is a proposal to create an agency of strategic initiatives under the auspices of the government chairman to promote new projects," Putin told the meeting in the city of Volgograd in central Russia.
"There is a need to create a forum for constant communication, constant dialogue," Putin said to audience applause, before adding that he would put one of his aides in charge of the agency's work.
"Let's try to create a forum, a new forum to work with those who seek success and proposes new ideas," he said.
"There is a need to look for new strategic breakthrough initiatives and new instruments with the aim of achieving development goals," he said, adding the new agency would help promote new business ideas, support start-ups and back young talent.
Putin, who in the past has repeatedly accused non-governmental organisations (NGOs) of working in the interests of Western powers, also said the new agency would help hundreds of activists realise their projects.
"Russia's NGOs are hundreds of thousands of activists who independently of the state solve extremely important problems our people face," Putin said in the marathon speech which touched on everything from Russia's sporting victories to the Soviet victory in World War II.
Putin's latest initiative will be seen in many quarters as an attempt to appeal to young, urban well-educated Russians who sociologists say make up Medvedev's core support group.
A Kremlin spokesman declined immediate comment.
© 2011 AFP