Putin names Lavrov, Shoigu to United Russia elections list

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday said his foreign minister and his defense minister will head the candidates’ list for the dominant United Russia party in September’s parliamentary election.

By placing Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on the list, Putin aims to increase voter enthusiasm for the party whose support has been waning.

The Sept. 19 election for all 450 seats in the Duma, the lower house of parliament, is widely seen as an important part of Putin’s efforts to cement his rule ahead of the 2024 presidential election. The 68-year-old leader, who has been in power for more than two decades, pushed through constitutional changes last year that would potentially allow him to hold onto power until 2036.

Both Shoigu and Lavrov have substantial popularity for their firm positions on the military and and challenges to the West. Being on the party list does not oblige them to take parliament seats if elected.

Notably absent from the list announced at a party convention was Dmitry Medvedev, the former president and prime minister who is United Russia’s chairman. Medvedev left the premiership in January 2020 and took the less-visible post of deputy chairman of the national security council.

Although United Russia dominates the country’s politics and is Putin’s power base, its support is dipping. A survey in April by the independent pollster Levada Center found only 42% of voters would vote for the party in the parliamentary election.

Ahead of the September election, Russian authorities have moved to stifle opposition, most notably by outlawing the organizations founded by imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny. That prevents people associated with Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption and his sprawling regional network from seeking public office. Many of Navalny’s allies had hoped to run for parliamentary seats in September.