MOSCOW, April 24 (UPI) -- President-elect Vladimir Putin handed over leadership of the United Russia Party on Tuesday to President Dmitry Medvedev, who is to be his prime minister.
At a meeting with party officials, Putin said the president of the country should be a "non-party figure," ITAR-Tass reported. He said he is making the decision to leave the party voluntarily, since Russian law does not bar presidents from holding party membership.
"But the president is, after all, a consolidating figure for all the political forces in the country, for all its citizens," Putin said. "In connection with this, I believe it is correct to give up the leadership of United Russia after my May 7 inauguration."
Putin, 59, served as president from 1999 to 2008 and as prime minister from 2008 on.
United Russia held on to its parliamentary majority in December 2011 by the skin of its teeth. Protesters say even those results were rigged.
Alexei Navalny, an opposition blogger, called United Russia the "party of swindlers and thieves" last year.