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Monday, 20 December, 1999, 06:46 GMT
Analysis: How Unity helps Putin

Comrades: Vladimir Putin celebrates with Sergei Shoigu of the Unity Party Vladimir Putin celebrates with Sergei Shoigu of the Unity Party


By the BBC's Stephen Dalziel in Moscow

Unity and its supporters are hailing this result as a victory for democracy, but seen from another perspective, it looks more like an illustration of how effectively the Kremlin has managed to sway public opinion behind its people, thanks to what is perceived as a successful military campaign in Chechnya and a firm grip on the media.

Unity has been in existence for just two months, and was created solely to stop the Fatherland-All Russia coalition of the former prime minister, Yevgeny Primakov, and the mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, which looked set to upset the Kremlin's hold on power.

Many regional governers switched their support from Fatherland-All Russia to Unity, and then used their influence on their local electorates, and over local media, to follow suit.

Talk of pact

Given the lack of any clear political policies, Unity made a clever move last week, by bringing the party of economic reformers, the Union of Right Wing Forces, into an alliance with the prime minister, Vladimir Putin.

Even before final results are declared, the talk is already of a pact which could mean that, after two parliaments dominated by opposition deputies, the Russian leadership at last has a Duma it can rely on.

Chechnya

This will give a massive boost to Mr Putin's chances of becoming president in the election in June 2000.

So far he's relied on popular support for the military operation in Chechnya to gain a massive lead in opinion polls.

Now, even if that campaign starts to go wrong, he may be protected from a swing against him by a sympathetic parliament and a tight grip on the media.

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20 Dec 99 |  Europe
Poll boost for Russian PM
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