At a meeting, the Russian President and representatives of the State Duma factions indeed confirmed their mutual dislike for each other and "checked their watches" until the start of the elections to the State Duma.
Although Vladimir Putin and the deputies formally discussed many issues such as employment, the indexation of pensions for working pensioners, support for veterans and orphans, and many others, it came as no surprise that the discussion moved smoothly and predictably into the topic of election to the State Duma scheduled for September.
It was all done without any unnecessary subtle understatements or political courtesies. The representatives of the State Duma factions, as people of action, demanded from Putin, also as a man of action, certain advance guarantees in return for their own loyalty.
For example, deputies showed some visible concern at the end of last year when they were seriously considering the forthcoming elections to the State Duma. Everyone still remembers the turbulent days of the Moscow City Duma elections. As a result, unauthorized rallies were held in the Russian capital by voters who did not understand the political moment.
In order to prevent a new "mayhem", the officials began to adopt laws as soon as possible. In their opinion, the legislative acts would protect them from possible protest actions and guarantee a head start in the elections over other candidates.
In addition to the laws adopted, in full accordance with the idea that the fair heat breaks no bones, some juicy discussions were held alongside with fierce struggle for the future among the Duma deputies.
The week before the meeting with Putin, for example, the deputies paved the way by statements about the activities of sociologists and experts who shared their views at a roundtable discussion at the press centre of the Russia Today news agency. The council of experts included Oleg Bondarenko, the head of the Progressive Policy Foundation, Mikhail Vinogradov, the President of the St. Petersburg Policy Foundation, Dmitry Gusev, the head of the central office of the Just Russia party, Natalia Lindigrin, the executive director of the ANO Regional Problems Institute, Mikhail Mamonov, the head of political analysis department at the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center, Evgeny Minchenko, the President of the Minchenko Consulting communications holding company, Victor Poturemsky, the head of political analysis department at the Institute of Social Marketing, Sergey Starovoitov, a political scientist and CEO of the Club of Regions federal expert network, and Alexey Chesnakov, the CEO of the Centre for Political Conjuncture. They produced analysis of the electorate's expectations of voters.
In particular, Mikhail Mamonov made a compelling argument that the majority of people stick to the pro-government positions. The closer they are to United Russia and A Just Russia party, the greater the enthusiasm for "traditional values" and patriotism they show. Thus, according to Mamonov, "traditional values" are supported by 94% of the electorate of United Russia and 93% of the electorate of A Just Russia.
As for patriotism, 51% of potential voters agreed that Russia must be a great power with first-class armed force. The other half believed that before taking part in a war it would be better to take care of the welfare of the rank-and-file instead. Among supporters of United Russia, 66% are for the great-power concept as opposed to 25% of those who don't want to go to war with anyone. 33% and 63% are the lowest patriotic ratings among supporters of non-parliamentary parties respectively.
In general, most of the experts agreed that voters today need the "care" of the government and that this care can only be provided by pro-government parties, in particular, United Russia and A Just Russia.
"It is necessary to distinguish the following categories of fairness as the Russian understand it today. The quest for a fair standard of living forms the first block. It includes high salaries and pensions, the difference between the incomes of managers and ordinary workers, and taxes paid by the rich. A decent quality of life is the second basic category. It includes, above all, education, health care, and the conditions where parents would not have to hire tutors for their children for getting ready to enroll for universities and where medical services would be accessible for everyone. The third block is that the authorities should communicate with people on equal terms. Namely, first of all, to consult with the people on most issues. Secondly, government officials should communicate with the people politely. And, of course, there should be fair courts..." Dmitry Gusev, the head of the central office of A Just Russia party, said in an interview on this occasion.
Sergey Starovoitov, the CEO of the Club of Regions federal network of experts, came up with a brand new idea of Russia as the "trendsetter" in the segment of electoral technologies in terms of pitching individualism and collectivism against each other. According to him, Russia has relevant experience and is ready to display it once again.
Viktor Poturemsky, the head of political analysis at the Social Marketing Institute, believes that the Russians are likely to trust big parties the most in elections. Alexei Chesnakov, the CEO of the Political Environment Center, surmised that, definitely, United Russia will be in the first place. Anyway, according to Chesnakov, only this party is capable of providing stability and confidence in the future, as well as other bonuses. Predictably, all the experts and parties’ representatives talked about patriotism and greatness.
In fact, the idea of "national unity, nationality and communality," albeit in a somewhat modernized form, was sounded by the experts while patriotism became almost the main virtue of possible candidates in the autumn elections.
This is apparently what Vladimir Putin himself expected when he talked to the leaders of the State Duma factions. He didn’t dwell much on the eternal issue of assistance to veterans of World War II which, as they say, will still be on agenda 20 years from now. He also didn’t speak much about pensions for working pensioners. The conversation moved smoothly to patriotism, one of the favorite concepts of the country's leadership. The Russian President fully agreed with the deputies that interference in the State Duma elections by some external hostile forces was inadmissible.
"This patriotic unity is essential. All the more so for the leading parties that have their own traditions, ideology and real influence among people," Putin said praising the mood of deputies.
At the same time, the Russian President said with confidence that for the rest of the issues, if not taking into account "machinations of the Western countries", everything was fine in Russia and the country was developing quite successfully. For instance, the unemployment rate is falling. Food stamps are likely to be introduced for the low-income groups to further improve their well-being. Privatization that swept Russia in the 1990s is not likely to happen again. Therefore, people should not think about it. The Russian President also referred to the "double standards." According to him, it is not the Russian media that is censored but rather foreign countries that control "freedom of speech." The blocking of the Internet is a necessary step to achieve the country's security in a "sovereign democracy".
Vladimir Putin referred to historical truth as a separate and very sore point. He pointed out that only the genocide against the Soviet people during the last World War has led to some negative consequences in lives of the Russians today.
On the whole, Vladimir Putin gave the assurances that the State Duma election would be fair and competitive as it is expected by people.
"A special enhanced responsibility lies exactly with the 'big four' parties. Relying on the support of millions of people, they must take the lead for the entire future election campaign, to conduct it in a constructive and meaningful way, to demonstrate a deep and mature discussion, and not just, if you'll pardon the expression, quarrel with each other. They must show their approach and ways of developing of the country," said Putin.