Putin Vows to Develop Russia's 'Multi-Party System' After Consolidating Power

Vladimir Putin greets Dmitry Medvedev
Russian President Vladimir Putin greets Dmitry Medvedev, prime minister and chairman of the United Russia party, at the party's campaign headquarters after its parliamentary election, Moscow, September 18. Following his party's resounding victory, Putin spoke of developing a multiparty system in Russian politics. Sputnik/Pool/Ekaterina Shtukina via Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to develop a "multiparty system" in the country, only a day after his own party secured its strongest grip on parliament ever.

Parliamentary elections in Russia were not expected to bring the end of ruling party United Russia's reign. However, it more than retained its majority, by winning a record 343 seats in the 450-seat lower house.

Putin welcomed the result as a vote of confidence, but told government officials in a televised meeting Monday night that they must "listen to political forces, including those that did not enter parliament."

In the meeting, which was recorded by the Kremlin, Putin praised United Russia's election result as "good" but said it would not eliminate external opinion from the party's mindset, noting that officials should listen to other movements on domestic policy.

"We must and will develop our country's multi-party system and support civil society, including patriotically-inclined non-governmental organizations," Putin said, not naming any specific organizations he was referring to.

His word choice suggested this may not mean more adherence to Russian liberals, who are frequently accused of being unpatriotic and serving foreign governments.

Only two of the 14 parties that ran nationwide in the election are considered in opposition to Putin's presidency.

The Russian leader said the election result was an advance by the Russian voters, to allow his government to mount an economic recovery and continue resisting pressure from abroad.

"I hope very much that the government and the new parliament will act in consolidated fashion, combine their efforts and work towards the goals I just mentioned, above all in the interests of Russia's people," he said.