Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party awarded seats in parliament to a former Playboy playmate, boxing champion and No. 1 tennis player in a bid to boost its image after its worst showing in eight years.
Maria Kozhevnikova, the centerfold in Playboy’s September 2009 Russia edition, former U.S. and Australian open winner Marat Safin and Nikolai Valuev, who ceded the world heavyweight crown in 2009, are among the 238 United Russia deputies that will control the 450-seat State Duma when it convenes Dec. 21, according to a list published in the government’s official newspaper today.
President Dmitry Medvedev, who led United Russia’s electoral list in the Dec. 4 elections, is seeking to remake the party’s image after alleged vote-rigging fueled protests that grew into the largest in the Russian capital in a decade.
Medvedev on Dec. 17 said that all United Russia leaders and candidates must be actual members of the party to prove that the organization isn’t just a vote “machine.” Medvedev didn’t mention Putin, who is chairman but not a member of United Russia, by name. Medvedev is supporting his mentor Putin’s campaign to return to the presidency in March elections.
“It’s essential that the management of United Russia and that United Russia’s leaders, as well as those heading the party’s electoral lists, should be members of United Russia -- without exception,” Medvedev said, according to a Kremlin transcript. “Only then can the people of our country believe that the party is not just a machine for votes or a stepping stone in some official’s career.”
--Editors: Brad Cook.
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