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16 Sep, 2009 06:01

President Medvedev considers running again in 2012

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said he is not ruling out the possibility of taking part in the 2012 presidential election. The statement was made at a meeting of the Valdai discussion club.

It is possible that the next president will be slated by a party, Medvedev said, and this can happen as early as the 2012 election. Currently there is a different political tradition in Russia, where the president is a symbol of national unity. But as the political culture develops, people will be ready for a situation in which there is a party president at the top of the country, even if they like other candidates better, Medvedev said.

“He didn’t say yes, but he didn’t rule it out,” said Andrew Cohen of the Heritage Foundation. “He and the prime minister are in the same boat.”

“I think we will hear sooner or later about what will happen in 2012, but it will be later rather than sooner,” concluded Cohen.

When questioned by Piotr Dutkiewicz from the University of Carlton about what exactly the “Medvedev platform” stands for, Medvedev answered that “every head of state cannot do anything without his own plan.”

To be more precise, Medvedev said, “What Russia really needs now is modernization. In the 1990s we were coming to terms with the fact that the country has changed, we were just trying to survive…. The past decade was dedicated to building a stable state, a state that tries to be effective but that doesn’t always succeed. Now our goal is development, and development can only be through modernization.”

Putin's go

Just last week, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sparked a media fuss after reportedly saying that he is considering the possibility of running again for the presidency. Medvedev, however, has made it clear there will be no competition, even though Putin has one of the highest popularity ratings.

“It doesn’t mean we can predetermine something, but being responsible people, we have to agree with each other on some issues,” stated Medvedev.

Timothy Collton, a participant in the discussion club from Harvard University’s Russia Center, noted that the two leaders presented their answers in rather different ways.

“In Putin’s case he, when asked to look back to 2007, said ‘well, we were rivals in 2007, weren’t we, so we won’t be this time.’ Of course, in 2007, as we all know, it was really Mr. Putin who was making the key choices, and the subtext was that it may be that way again,” said Collton. “In Medvedev’s case, I think it’s very awkward for him as president, because normally you would expect his prime minister to say, ‘Of course I will support him if he runs,’ but that is not their position.”

“But Medvedev, I would say, made it pretty clear that he would like another term as president,” added Collton.

Medvedev’s stand

Usually perceived as more soft-spoken than his predecessor, some of Medvedev’s statements have been surprisingly bold. He criticized the country’s economy as ineffective, democracy as weak and society as too dependent on the government.

“He is now really interested in staking out an independent position for himself,” James Sherr, the head of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Chatham House, said of Medvedev. “But with one reservation: Is this really the case, or does he simply want us to think this is the case?”

While Medvedev admitted that the economic crisis has damaged the Russian economy, he steered clear of reproaching the Putin government. Instead, he pointed his criticism at his G20 counterparts.

“We should stop talking in general about how dangerous the crisis is for everybody and how we can avoid such crises in the future,” Medvedev argued. “We have spoken out about the need for a new financial architecture. Have we made any progress on that? I do not think so.”

But Medvedev himself denied any division. After the cameras left, he said that Putin was not born wearing KGB epaulettes. He noted that they both graduated from the same university, and that provided enough common ground for them to secure their political partnership.

From ideas to business

Most of today’s meeting was held behind closed doors, but participants whom RT managed to speak to afterward said the atmosphere was far more relaxed and open than a year ago. Some linked it to the fact that Medvedev himself now felt more comfortable.

Medvedev touched upon a wide range of issues. Among others, he has called for the economy to be diversified and more efficient. Speaking about democracy, the president said the political system needs to be more open for competition, saying the current democracy is weak.

Touching upon the financial crisis, he noted that it had impacted greatly on Russia’s economy, but he didn’t criticize the Russian government. Instead, he expressed his satisfaction with the measures taken by Putin’s cabinet.

“The government was coping with its duties,” the president said. “It doesn’t mean that there were no mistakes, but one doesn’t make any if they are idle.”