For the presidential election next year, the current Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has proposed his prime minister, Vladimir Putin, which brought a heavy round of applause. On Saturday in front of the ruling United Russia party’s annual congress, the two men (photo, from lemonde.fr) ended speculations by backing one another to switch roles.
“I think it would be correct for the congress to support the candidacy of the party chairman, Vladimir Putin, to the post of president of the country,” said Mr Medvedev.
Mr Putin leads United Russia, which dominates the country’s politics.
Therefore the return of Mr Putin to the Kremlin – he already served two terms as president before his protege took over in 2008 because the constitution prevented him from running for a third consecutive term – in as well as guaranteed.
Mr Medvedev will become the only one-term president in post-Soviet Russian history.
After president Medvedev’s suggestion that he should be a candidate, Mr Putin told delegates : “I want to thank you for the positive reaction to the proposal for me to stand for Russian president.”
“For me this is a great honour.”
And Mr Medvedev could become Mr Putin’s prime minister. Earlier the Russian president had accepted a proposal to head the party’s list of candidates in the elections. He spoke of his “readiness to assume practical work in the government” in the future.
According to what Mr Putin told delegates, he and Mr Medvedev reached an agreement on who should hold which post “a long time ago, several years back”.
The future candidate to the presidential election then warned that in order to cope with the global financial turmoil there may be unpopular measures in the future.
“The task of the government is not only to pour honey into a cup, but sometimes to give bitter medicine,” Mr Putin said.
“But this should always be done openly and honestly, and then the overwhelming majority of people will understand their government.”
And while some economists say the return of more conservative Mr Putin could counter Mr Medvedevs’s attempts to modernise Russia during his term, others argue that the two men have different styles but very similar policy.
The country’s small liberal opposition reacted with dismay to the highly expected announcement of Mr Putin’s candidacy.
Boris Nemtsov, a deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin, and the co-founder of the unregistered People’s Freedom Party, said under Mr Putin there would be “increased migration, capital flight and even more dependence on raw materials”.
“We’re in for a giant corruption component in politics, which will be incomparable with the current one,” he told Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy.
And a few months after becoming president, Mr Medvedev pushed forward constitutional amendments which will give the new president a six-year mandate rather than four years as before. But the constitution still limits the number of consecutive terms to two, therefore Russia’s next president could be in office until 2024.