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Putin To Quit As Head of Russian Ruling Party

Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin
Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin
Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin has said that he plans to resign as chairman of Russia's increasingly unpopular ruling party, United Russia.

Putin has indicated that he will hand the chairman's post to Russia's next expected prime minister – the outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev, who headed United Russia's list in the State Duma parliamentary elections in December

Speaking at a Moscow meeting with the leadership of United Russia, Putin said the Russian president should be a "non-partisan figure."

Putin and Medvedev are long-time allies who plan to swap jobs after the May 7 presidential inauguration.

Putin chaired United Russia during the last four years while serving as Russia's prime minister.

United Russia dominated the country's politics for most of Putin's two previous presidential terms from 2000 to 2008.

The party took pride in implementing Putin's vision of a centrally controlled government in which stability was favored over political pluralism.

However, the party has now become the focus of corruption allegations by its opponents.

United Russia has been dubbed by protesters as "the party of swindlers and thieves," prompting it to convene a formal meeting to deflect the claims.

Mass Protests

But the party's rejection of fraud allegations has triggered mass protests against both the party and Putin.

Opinion polls have long suggested that Putin's approval ratings are considerably higher than United Russia's popularity.

United Russia won just under half the votes in December's Duma elections, down from 64 percent in 2007.

According to official results, Putin won the March 4 presidential election with more than 63 percent of the vote.

Medvedev's popularity has dropped since he and Putin announced last September that Medvedev would step down as president to clear the way for Putin's return to the Kremlin.

Medvedev is reportedly also less popular than Putin among party members, who blame him for United Russia's relatively poor performance in the December vote.

Before those Duma elections, Putin had begun to take steps to distance himself from United Russia.

In May 2011 he created a new coalition, the All-Russia People's Front, which brings together numerous nongovernmental organizations, youth groups, and business associations along with the ruling party.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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