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Daily Archives: April 16, 2008

Weekend relief for San Ma Lou


The  route  linking  the  inner  harbour with the city’s casino strip will soon be closed  to private cars and  scoot-ers during weekends to ease trafic conges-tion, the government’s transport think-tank reported yesterday.

Putin to lead Russia’s ruling party as premier

by Sebastian Smith*

President Vladimir Putin yesterday agreed to head Russia's ruling party in a significant shift of the political landscape three weeks before he hands power to successor Dmitry Medvedev.
Putin, who leaves the Kremlin after two terms on May 7, also confirmed he would become prime minister under Medvedev.
"With gratitude I accept the proposal of the party members and their leadership…. I am ready to take on the additional responsibility and head United Russia," he told a party congress in Moscow after being urged to take the post.
The 55-year-old ex-KGB officer's announcement, carried live on state-run television, signalled a reordering of Russia's political mix on the eve of Medvedev's presidential debut.
During his eight years in the Kremlin, Putin has steadily centralised power, with United Russia his tool for ensuring loyalty of an increasingly emasculated parliament.
Becoming head of the party, which won a constitutional majority with 63 percent of the vote in controversial December elections, will now hugely strengthen Putin's status as prime minister.
But the development added to questions raised in Moscow and foreign capitals over who will really be in charge from next month — the untested Medvedev or powerful ex-president, turned prime minister and parliament leader Putin.
"Analysts and those in the media are still trying to figure out whose portrait will end up hanging in government offices across the country," commentator Konstantin Sonin wrote in yesterday's Moscow Times daily.
Andrei Ryabov, an analyst at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, said that Putin's position had been bolstered for now, but that Medvedev might not always tolerate the competition.
"As a result of fights between interest groups, pressures and conflicts, the system could again become based on one person. Who will that be? The chances are equal. You'd have to be an astrologer to say," Ryabov commented.
Recruiting Putin was the logical next step for United Russia, a party that has always been seen as a Kremlin creation tasked with turning the once combative parliament of the 1990s into a rubber stamp.
Late Monday the party voted changes to its charter that would allow Putin to become chairman without actually holding membership. Delegates also decided to split the leadership, with Putin taking the chairmanship and Gryzlov the more technical ruling council.
Gryzlov, whose pleading that Putin take his job is only the latest expression of loyalty, explained Monday just how close the outgoing president and dominant party were to each other.
"The eight presidential annual addresses delivered by Vladimir Putin are what define the 'Putin course' — the course toward becoming a great power, a great Russia. And this is the programme of our party," he said.
The head of the central elections commission, Vladimir Churov, told Interfax news agency that Putin's embracing of United Russia was "another step on the development of democracy, a wholly natural step for many states where party leaders become heads of government."
But Mark Urnov, an analyst at the Expertise think tank, said that the manoeuvre was "the victory of part of the political elite that did not want, or feared to see the departure of Putin."
"All of Putin's entourage will remain in the key posts…. There will be no separation of the state from the economy, no real fight against corruption," he said. "Stagnation lies ahead."
Natalia Leschenko at the London-based Global Insight group said United Russia now bore comparison with the Soviet Communist Party in that it pretended to defend "democratic interests" but in fact was "a vehicle of party leadership and elite instead."