Russia over the weekend became possibly the first country in history with a two-party system in which both parties share the same overriding principle — that the executive is always right.With the merger Saturday of the Party of Life, the Rodina party and the Party of Pensioners, the system appears in place.
The new party, Just Russia: Motherland, Pensioners, Life, is to play the role of the center-left opposition. Its rival is to be the established, center-right United Russia.
"If United Russia is the party of power, we will become the party of the people," said Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov, who was elected Just Russia's leader Saturday.
"We will follow the course of President Vladimir Putin and will not allow anyone to veer from it after Putin leaves his post in 2008," Mironov said.
Mironov's comments came at a convention creating Just Russia.
At separate simultaneous conventions in Moscow, delegates from the Party of Life and the Party of Pensioners voted to strip their groups of party status, enabling members to apply for membership in Rodina.
Delegates at the conventions then voted to change Rodina's name to Just Russia. Rodina was selected as the core group of the new coalition party because it is the only one of the trio with seats in the State Duma, Rodina leader Alexander Babakov said.
Also on Saturday, Babakov was elected secretary of Just Russia's presidium, and Igor Zotov, leader of the Party of Pensioners, became secretary of its political council.
Despite varying widely in size, the parties were allotted equal shares of seats on the new party's governing panels.
Putin sent congratulations, saying the creation of Just Russia was "proof of a growing creative potential in Russian society."
The new party will hold a convention early next year to adopt a charter, and it will be registered soon after, giving Just Russia enough time to compete in regional legislature elections in March, Mironov said.
Using rhetoric similar to that of the Communist Party, Mironov said Just Russia sought to siphon votes away from the Communists by defending "the interests of working people." Fair hourly wages, pension reform and a more equitable distribution of the wealth derived from natural resources top the party's agenda, he said.
Mironov also decried United Russia's monopoly, as he sees it, of the nation's political, economic and "administrative" resources.
Noting that Rodina and the Party of Life were Kremlin concoctions, Vladimir Pribylovsky, an analyst with the Panorama think tank, said the party would play a dual role. "It's the party of the president's left foot complementing the right foot of United Russia," he said. "It is also a party of the opposition of the master's maid to the master's butler."