Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev succeeded President Vladimir Putin as head of the ruling party, United Russia, in a follow up to their job swap in the Kremlin.

Mr. Putin stepped down as the party’s chairman following his return to the presidency earlier this month. He argued that President in Russia by tradition is not affiliated with any party.

United Russia, which has dominated the Russian Parliament since its establishment in 2003, has recently been losing support. It lost a quarter of its seats in Parliament in December elections, which were marred with massive falsifications and sparked the biggest anti-Kremlin protests in 20 years.

Mr. Medvedev called for democratisation of the ruling party to enable it to deal with the growing competition from other political forces.

“The party must be more open, it must be seen by people as their own, not as a party imposed from high up… but as a party representing the interests of the broad masses,” Mr. Medvedev told a party congress on Saturday.

He said all party functionaries must henceforth be elected by contested secret ballot and be replaced after five years. Mr. Medvedev himself was elected unopposed by a show of hands.

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