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Unity (MEDVED) Party

UNITY (MEDVED) PARTY

Boris Yeltsin's second and final term as president would expire in June 2000, and he anxiously searched for a viable successor. In summer 1999 a serious challenge emerged from two powerful regional leaders, Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov and Tatarstan president Mintimer Shaimiev. They merged the two movements they headed, Father-land and All Russia, into an alliance headed by Yevgeny Primakov, the prime minister whom Yeltsin had fired in March. Victory for Fatherland/All Russia in the State Duma election in December 1999 would give Luzhkov or Primakov a good chance of defeating the Kremlin's candidate for the presidency in June 2000.

In response the presidential staff hastily created a new loyalist party, Yedinstvo (Unity), also known as Medved or Bear (from its official name, Interregional Movement "Unity," whose first letters spell MeDvEd). Unity was launched in September 1999, just three months before the election. Unity mobilized the administrative resources of government ministries and regional governors, thirty-two of whom backed the new electoral alliance. Unity's philosophy was simple: support for Prime Minister Putin, who was leading the fight against Chechen bandits. Putin declined to lead Unity; its official head was the ambitious young minister for emergency situations, Sergei Shoigu. In 1999 Unity was helped by oligarch Boris Berezovsky, whose television station ORT launched relentless personal attacks on Unity's rivals, Luzhkov and Primakov. Ironically, a year later Berezovsky fell out with the Kremlin and was forced into exile.

Apart from Gennady Zyuganov's Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Russian political parties were exceptionally weak and unstable. Previous attempts to create a pro-government party, such as Russia's Choice (1993) or Our Home is Russia (1995), had failed. People were willing to vote for a strong president but voiced their discontent by voting for opposition parties in parliamentary elections. About 20 to 30 percent of voters supported the communists, and a similar number supported the various democratic parties. Unity hoped to pull support from across the spectrum, especially from voters who were skeptical of all ideologies and preferred pragmatic leaders.

Much to everyone's surprise, Unity did well in the December 1999 election, winning 23 percent on the national party list, close behind the Communists' 24 percent, and ahead of Fatherland/All Russia at 13 percent. This cleared the way for Putin's successful run for the presidency. Unity then forged a tactical alliance with the Communists in parliament, and in 2000 and 2001 the Duma passed nearly all of Putin's legislative proposals, from START II ratification to land reform.

Surveys suggested that Unity was maintaining its electoral support and gaining some influence in regional elections. In July 2001 Luzhkov's Fatherland party, recognizing Unity's administrative muscle and fearing defeat in the next election, reluctantly merged with Unity. Shaimiev's All-Russia later followed suit. The three parties held a founding congress to form a new party, called United Russia, on December 1. The party claimed to have 200,000 members, but its support seemed to derive entirely from Putin's popularity.

In November 2002 legislator Alexander Bespalov was replaced as head of United Russia by Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, signalling the Kremlin's desire to keep tight control over the party as it prepared for its main test: the December 2003 State Duma elections. A new July 2002 law introduced party list elections for half the seats in regional legislatures, giving Unified Russia a chance of establishing a presence at a regional level throughout Russia.

See also: putin, vladimir vladimirovich

bibliography

Malyakin, Ilya. (2003). "The 'United Russia' Project: Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory." Russia and Eurasia Review 2, No. 5 (March 4). June 20. <http://www.jamestown.org/pubs/view/rer_002_005_003.htm>.

Peter Rutland

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Unity Party

UNITY PARTY

Turkish political party, active in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Unity party came to be identified with the Shiʿite Alevi minority community. It changed its name to the Turkish Unity party in November of 1971, perhaps to overcome this image. With the outlawing of the Turkish Workers Party, eight of its former members were allowed to run as independents on the Unity party's election list in 1973, giving it a distinct leftist inclination. It polled only 1 percent of the vote and gained only one seat, however, compared to nearly 3 percent and eight seats in 1969. In 1977 it did even less well, failing to win any seats at all.

see also alevi; turkish workers party.


Bibliography


Weiker, Walter F. The Modernization of Turkey: From Ataturk to the Present Day. New York: Holmes and Meier, 1981.

frank tachau

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