“Everything is continuing as agreed” – Medvedev

Members of a local voting commission empty a ballot box onto a table (AFP Photo / NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA)
President Medvedev has told reporters that he and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have a mutual strategy and so far it is being implemented in accordance with the plan. Meanwhile, analysts are trying to guess what the plan is.

Speaking to the media at the presidential residence near the Russian resort town of Sochi, Medvedev said that his actions and the actions of Prime Minister Putin are coordinated with a single and negotiated strategy.

“Everything goes on as we have agreed,” Medvedev told reporters. “Any political force must have a program for a long-term perspective and we have one.”

The question that remains unanswered, however, is whether Medvedev and Putin will both participate in the presidential elections, scheduled for March 4, 2012. Both Medvedev and Putin have remained coy on this question, yet promise that everything will be disclosed when the time is right.

On Thursday, Kommersant, a Russian daily, quoting an anonymous source “close to the Kremlin,” reported that President Medvedev will take part in the congress of the United Russia party set for September 23-24. There he will make an announcement concerning his decision whether or not he will run for a second term.

“The congress will be a key point,” Kommersant’s sources said. “It is too late to announce the participation in the elections in December.”

It should be noted that Medvedev was put forward as a presidential candidate by a coalition of parties for the first time on December 10, 2007. The elections took place on March 2, 2008 and Medvedev won with over 70 percent of vote.

However, the sources also noted that Medvedev’s announcement on taking part in the elections could increase the popularity United Russia, which could be critical in light of the parliamentary elections that are due to take place on December 4, 2011.

Analysts speculate that a Medvedev announcement could add as much as 10 percent to United Russia’s popularity, thus securing a constitutional majority for the party in the lower house. This would give the ruling party the ability to approve changes in the Russian constitution without entering blocs with other political forces.

On the other hand, some analysts said that such an announcement could actually weaken United Russia’s position given the number of die-hard Putin supporters who are not very much in favor of Medvedev.

Medvedev is not a member of any political party.

A third group of experts said that it was in the interests of the “tandem” to leave the tantalizing question unanswered for as long as possible, even for their top aides and entourage.

Meanwhile, the uncertainty on the political scene has started to affect the Russian economy. On Wednesday, Standard and Poors rating agency affirmed Russia’s BBB/A-3 foreign currency and BBB+/A-2 local currency ratings, but criticized the country both for the excessive dependency on natural resources, as well as the ambiguity over the approaching presidential elections.

"The ratings on Russia remain constrained by structural weaknesses in Russia's economy … and political uncertainty stemming from an ambiguous succession process for the presidency and weak checks and balances between institutions," the agency wrote.

"The outcome of the election could potentially affect future economic and fiscal policy, including as to how decisively the government will consolidate public finances and push structural reforms – including pension reform – improve the business environment and privatize government-owned companies,” the report reads.