Duma to vote on Zubkov's candidacy

Russia's State Duma is set to vote on whether Viktor Zubkov should be the country's new Prime Minister. The surprise candidate is currently explaining his views on Russia's future to deputies, though his nomination is expected to be fairly straight forwar

The parliamentary session started at 12:30 pm Moscow time (8:30 am GMT). The prospective prime minister’s addresses the parliament.

He has already promised to engage actively in solving various pressing economic and social problems of Russia.

Then each faction will ask him two questions.

The voting is expected to take place around 2:00 pm Moscow time (10:00 am GMT).

Is Zubkov a shoo-in?

PM nominee to become President?

Putin explains his move

Zubkov's priorities as PM if approved

Is Zubkov a shoo-in?

The only major party, whose members’ votes were not secured by the would-be Premier, is the Communist Party. Some members of the faction said after their meeting with Zubkov that it went more smoothly than expected. However, the communists are not going to support Zubkov’s candidacy and are expected to abstain from the voting.

Meanwhile, the three other big factions in the Russian parliament praised the president’s choice of candidate for the Premier’s seat. The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vladimir Zhirinovsky went as far as saying that he expects the Zubkov cabinet to be the best Russian government in 30 years. Zhirinovsky promised the full support of his party to Zubkov.

Two pro-president parties, United Russia and Fair Russia, also backed Victor Zubkov’s candidacy. Those who knew him back then say Zubkov’s personal qualities make him ideal for the job.

“He is a clear-thinking, mature person with no selfish ends. He is a breed of person with the peasant's streak that loves to work, a 'boy' from the village who developed into the chief finance controller of the country. He is destined for results. Our faction will vote for his candidacy,” ensured Elena Drapeko from the Fair Russia party.

The largest party in Parliament also liked what they saw.

“The questions from the deputies of the United Russia faction to Mr Zubkov concerned the strategic development of our country. We received comprehensive answers. United Russia doesn't have any doubts left in voting for Zubkov. We are unanimously for him,” Boris Gryzlov, head of the United Russia party, stated.

So even without the Communist Party’s approval, Zubkov enjoys the support of a comfortable majority in the Duma, making his appointment virtually guaranteed.

PM nominee to become President?

The man set to become Russia's new Prime Minister says he does not exclude the possibility that he might run for the presidency in the 2008 elections. Viktor Zubkov made the announcement at a briefing following his meeting with party leaders at the Duma.

Following the surprise nomination by Vladimir Putin, Viktor Zubkov has spent Thursday morning meeting the leaders of parliamentary factions.

“If I achieve something as Prime Minister then I do not rule out that possibility,” Viktor Zubkov said after the meeting with the leaders of parliamentary factions on Thursday, answering the media question about his possible participation in presidential elections.

Meanwhile, the media is speculating over whether the announcement of Zubkov’s alleged presidential ambition signifies that Vladimir Putin intends to follow a scenario similar to that which saw him being appointed Prime Minister in 1999 and, at the very begining of 2000, Acting President of Russia. Putin himself was a surprise appointment to the position of Prime Minister by Russia’s first President, Boris Yeltsin.

It has been widely speculated that the two most likely candidates for the presidency are the two first deputy prime ministers in Mikhail Fradkov’s cabinet, Sergey Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev, both public politicians with long records. The media have suggested that the relatively unknown Viktor Zubkov will be playing the role of a ‘technical premier’.

Now Zubkov seems to have given analysts and politicians yet another thought to consider. RT’s political commentator Peter Lavelle expects Zubkov would rather be a ‘caretaker premier’ to provide stability during the power transition period in Russia: “I find it [Zubkov running for the presidency] very unlikely. Of course he could do it if he wanted to, there’s nothing barring him. He will definitely be the next Prime Minister. And maybe the Prime Minister under the next president, so that we have continuity.”

Putin explains his move

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin himself explained on Thursday what he has in mind in proposing Mr Zubkov as candidate for Prime Minister, and what the general idea behind replacing the government was.

“In my address at the beginning of this year I said that everyone, regardless of the political calendar, including the State Duma elections and Presidential elections in March 2008, has to do their duty to the best of their ability. But my calls are one thing and the reality is another. We are all human beings, including members of the government with our own plans and expectations.

It's hard to concentrate when there's always some uncertainty about the future, as to what's going to happen to each of us, as to what the political system will be like after the events in December 2007 and March next year. So I decided to make it clear now, just like in 2004, on the eve of the elections.

I thought it was now time for a re-shuffle and some modernisation of the power structure to make sure it works during the upcoming events and to point the direction for the development of the administrative and executive branches in the period between December and March 2008. I hope all this will make people concentrate better on their work and that the whole political system in Russia will work during the elections and after them,” he said.

Zubkov's priorities as PM if approved

Viktor Zubkov said that his priorities lie in the social sphere, which he thinks should be given more attention.

“We must pay more attention to the social sphere. Russian villages and rural settlements should be the focus of social reforms, because 40 million people live there. The national programmes and projects, as well as the President's address, say that it is necessary to increase our efforts in this area. The national programs include education, health care, housing and agriculture. Our work should improve the way of life in Russian villages. I've worked a lot in the rural area and I know for sure that the welfare of Russian villages is a guarantee of the welfare of the whole country. The security of Russia includes the safety of our food as well. We should bear it in mind.

It's important to increase pensions. We have the money and opportunity to do this. We must take steps to accelerate pension reforms. People should invest their money and the government should help its citizens.

All these questions which concern pension funding and the provision of medication, we should remember every day. And not only remember but carry out immediate measures,” he stressed.