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Speech: Putin At United Russia 8th Party Congress

Speech at the Closing Session of United Russia's 8th Party Congress

President Vladimir Putin:

Dear friends!

First of all, congratulations to you and all the supporters of United Russia on your impressive victory in the elections to the State Duma. I want to thank everyone who worked to achieve this magnificent result.

Today I want to express my appreciation to all the citizens of Russia who took part in the elections and fulfilled their civic responsibilities. They have effectively enabled Russia to maintain a steady course of development. The actions of the Russian people are the principal guarantee of the stability of our political system. They have helped the country avoid a return to the days of populism and social discord. And now the new Duma has the support of an overwhelming majority of Russia's citizens.

I am confident that deputies of United Russia will listen to the views and respect the positions of other parliamentary factions, since they too have the support of many of our fellow citizens, hundreds of thousands of them. It is important to respect this choice. Of course, United Russia should be open to dialogue and cooperation with the institutions of civil society and with all responsible and constructive political forces in the country.

Dear Colleagues!

The support of the people is precious, and it also brings with it important responsibilities. We must use the confidence the citizens have shown in us in their interests, in carrying out important creative endeavours. We must bring to fruition all our plans to improve people's lives, develop the economy and strengthen Russia.

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We cannot afford to postpone facing up to current challenges, even for a few weeks. That is why, without waiting for the expiration of the 30-day period, I exercised my constitutional right to convene the State Duma early.

We have already identified the major development priorities of the country and have prepared a priority list of laws to be passed. I hope that, with the decisive support of United Russia, they will be adopted during the spring session.

Now, let me say a few not quite so convivial words, not about winning the election but about what we try to achieve with this victory.

I would like all MPs, including those elected for the first time, to get to work as soon as possible, to hit the ground running. They should focus on addressing priority problems, that is, the things that directly affect people's lives. The parliament should start working on specific solutions aimed at improving the welfare of citizenry.

Let me be more specific. Three years ago, I set out to increase by 50 per cent in real terms the wages and salaries of public service employees and those in the armed services. Let me remind you that in the approved budget for 2008 we plan to increase the funds available to those employed by the state by 7 per cent as of 1 September next year. But you all know that unfortunately we have exceeded the level of inflation we budgeted for. And that means that if we do only what was planned in the 2008 budget, when we were counting on a much lower rate of inflation, we will not be able to comply with our commitments and promises to raise the wages and salaries of state employees and military personnel by 50 per cent in real terms.

Therefore I propose to increase the money available to those employed by the state not by 7 percent, as previously planned, but by 14 per cent, and not from September 1, 2008, but February 1, 2008. The basic military allowance in 2008 would increase by 18 per cent in two phases. We don't need to start from the end of September 2008 as previously planned, but rather from 1 February next year. Accordingly and at the same time we should recalculate pensions for retired military personnel.

Changes to the way we approach monetary allowances for military personnel are long overdue. We should work out more equitable principles for determining monetary allowances for the military. Those in uniform know exactly what I'm talking about, as do colleagues in this room who have been engaged for a long time in dealing with the social challenges facing military personnel.

With regards to provisions for pensioners we have to set ourselves a comprehensive goal: to completely eliminate poverty among pensioners in the next few years. To this end, you need to consider measures to improve the system of pension legislation, supporting the funded and increasing the insurance components in private pensions, and increasing the responsibility of the state for all categories of pensioners. This should include those whose service dates from Soviet times and is currently not recognized by existing legislation (this is a real mess, by the way).

There is more. We are committed to a number of priority national projects and a demographic programme. All these programmes are working very successfully. But here we - and I include myself in this - have promised that the crucial aspects of these projects, including child allowances, will be indexed. However, I see no provision for this in the 2008 budget or in 2009. We need to keep our promises. We should be consistent, fair and not economise at the expense of the people. I am asking the State Duma to make the necessary changes to the budget, and to index these benefits according to the increase in consumer prices starting in 2008.

I know that it will be difficult for the government cabinet to balance the budget and simultaneously address issues imposed by the need to comply with macroeconomic parameters. But the government can and should do so. We need to give fresh momentum to the innovative development of the economy, the efficient use of natural resources and the realisation of infrastructure projects.

And, of course, generally, we need to work on creating a more congenial business environment, improving corporate and tax laws and strengthening property rights.

All of this is only a fraction of the vast array of upcoming legislative work. As the dominant party, United Russia must set the tone and play a leading role. At the same time, United Russia must itself become a generator of new ideas. And for that it must have at its command the full range of human, institutional and political opportunities. The party itself must change and become a more mature organization. It must put together in open debate a clear ideological platform and system of values. It should get rid of some of its more transient members if necessary.

Dear friends!

On 28 November, the election campaign for the presidential election in Russia began. This is an equally important, an even more important stage in the political life of our country. As you know, last week there were discussions among the various political parties about candidates for the upcoming presidential election.

United Russia also initiated these consultations. I note that different parties with different political orientations took part in this process. It is very important that it resulted in a consensus for a single candidacy. The candidate chosen was Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev.

I believe that this is the best choice. Dmitry Anatolyevich is capable of coping with the work imposed by the highest public office. I don't say this because I have worked with Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev for 17 years or because during these years we have enjoyed an excellent working and personal relationship. What counts more is that Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev is an absolutely decent man of great integrity.

In recent years he has been working on various extremely important projects, projects that seemed at first glance totally neglected and unfeasible (as you know, he has been in charge of priority national projects and the demographic programme).

During this time Dmitry Anatolyevich has developed from being a good lawyer and general expert into an excellent, forceful administrator, skilled in public thinking. I can say with absolute confidence that his main life priorities are the interests of the state and its citizens. I am proud and unafraid to put the levers of power and the destiny of Russia into the hands of such a person.

I propose that this United Russia congress nominate Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev as candidate for the President of the country.

In conclusion I feel that it is necessary to point out the following.

I am perfectly aware that by heading the list of United Russia and convincing voters to vote for our party I took upon myself a great responsibility. People have shown enormous confidence in us. And that confidence cannot be betrayed, it must be justified.
People expect us to continue the intense, creative work in order to strengthen the country, raise the living standards, and improve the quality of our citizens' lives. And they, the voters, the citizens of Russia, have given us a unique opportunity to create a sustainable, constitutional, parliamentary majority and to form a workable basis for the government. In its turn, it of course must set up a constructive dialogue with the entire Parliament, with all the parties in the Duma.

In recent years we have indeed done a lot together and achieved a great deal. But we must have the courage to recognise that our unresolved problems far outnumber our achievements. Today we must not talk about past successes, even though there is much in the past we can be proud of, but rather about all that remains to be done.

We need to fulfil the promises we have made to the people: implement the planned development programmes and justify the confidence of the citizens of Russia. This is why we need to roll up our sleeves and get to work, without arrogance or ambition, as hard and as efficiently as we can. This applies to each of us, including me of course.

In this regard, I consider it necessary to say that if our people, the citizens of Russia, show their confidence in Dmitry Anatolevich Medvedev and elect him as the new president of Russia, then I also would be ready to continue our joint work, in this case, as Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, without changing the distribution of powers between the president and the government itself.

I am confident that, with the support of the people of Russia, we can do much to move the country in the direction of prosperity and stability.

Thank you very much.


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