Putin, Medvedev to speak Sunday: who will run?

On the second day of the United Russia party congress everyone is waiting for President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin to drop hints about their political future and presidential plans, if not make an outright declaration.

Russian politics is coming to life ahead of December's parliamentary elections. The ruling United Russia party, headed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, is holding its annual congress with around 10,000 participants.

This is the peak of the pre-election season and all eyes are on this congress. It is the last of the yearly conventions of Russia’s largest party ahead of the December 4 parliamentary elections and the upcoming presidential vote in March next year.

RT’s sources say that Dmitry Medvedev will clearly address the congress on Sunday. He is scheduled to make a 20-minute speech just ahead of Prime Minister Putin’s hour-long address.

The big question is whether Medvedev will announce if he plans to run for a second presidential term. Tensions over this question have peaked this summer with some analysts saying that a decision between Medvedev and Putin was reached privately in July.

Last week’s scandal over Mikhail Prokhorov’s ouster from the Right Cause party only added to speculation that certain changes are in the air.

There are two main reasons for this convention. The first is to outline the party’s election program, which Vladimir Putin, as its chairman, will do in his speech today. The second is a legal requirement: to determine a list of United Russia candidates for Parliament.

According to the Russia’s Izvestia daily, preliminary lists have already been leaked to the media, with all 600 names, save for the two top candidates, already determined.The newspaper claims those two are being saved for Medvedev and Putin.

If that is true, it means that whoever tops the list will be a telling indicator of who will run for the presidency, since voters are not just electing the party, they are voting for its leader.

However, there are those who claim that the question of election will simply be avoided at the convention. One unidentified Kremlin official was quoted by the media as saying that the announcement could wait until the end of the year, as happened in 2007. After all, both members of the tandem are interested in keeping up the suspense as long as possible.