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Race for Kremlin kicks off

Registration has officially opened for March`s presidential election in Russia, with pundits expecting around 10 candidates to make it to the last round. Dmitry Medvedev is the clear favourite after receiving the support of four parties and the current Pr

Medvedev wants to appoint Putin as Prime Minister to ensure work on economic and social problems is continued.

The announcement came on Tuesday in a televised address to the nation.

To read the extract from Medvedev's statement please follow the link.

“I understand Dmitry Medvedev's wish to see such a strong man as Vladimir Putin as Prime Minister. It's quite logical. But it's up to Putin himslef to decide what he wants to do,” current Prime Minister, Viktor Zubkov, commented.  

“I believe it is an interesting proposal. But I'm sure that the president will decide whether to accepts it or not a bit later,” First Deputy Prime Minister, Sergey Ivanov, said. 

If Putin accepts he would have to answer to Medvedev and would have less power but still much responsibility.

Dmitry Medvedev will formally be nominated as the candidate for the election by the ruling United Russia Party, at their congress on December 17.

On Monday, United Russia, along with three other parties, announced support for Medvedev becoming President at next year's election.

Vladimir Putin also backs First Deputy Prime Minister Medvedev, who he's known for 17 years.

On Wednesday, the Russian presidential election campaign has entered a new phase, as the country's Central Election Commission began to register candidates.

There are about 20 people who are intending to run for the post of Russian President, they have until the 16 January 16 to submit their applications.

The Liberal Democratic Party and the Communists are expected to nominate their leaders – Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Gennady Zyuganov.

Also, former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and chess master Garry Kasparov – leaders of the opposition coalition – may run for president.

However, there are some 'dark horses' among the candidates. Among them there is a journalist from Vladivostok, an economist from Moscow.

According to the Constitution: “Any citizen of the Russian Federation not younger than 35 years of age and with a permanent residence record in the Russian Federation of not less than 10 years may be elected President of the Russian Federation.”

Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev
Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev

In addition to that, self-nominated candidates have to collect 500 signatures and political parties' representatives should present two million signatures.

The final list of the contenders for the presidential post is to be announced in the end of January 2008.

Medvedev is seen as a good choice

The current Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov said he was very positive about Medvedev:

“I think he's a great choice, he is a very intelligent person. He was entrusted with the most important projects both in the government and the President's administration,” Zubkov said.

Viktor Zubkov has called Medvedev's proposal to appoint Putin as Prime Minister logical.

“A potential presidential candidate's desire to see such a strong personality as Vladimir Putin in the post of the country's prime minister is understandable and logical. It is now up to Vladimir Putin himself to make a choice as to how he will act,” he said.

“The current cabinet is working and will be working normally to prevent problems in the economy before May, 2008, when all the government members will have to resign in line with the Constitution,” he added.

Daniel Klein, a lawyer, and investment advisor at the Hellevig, Klein & Usov law firm, said “Russian economy in the last eight years, during Putin’s term, has performed extremely well”.

“We expect that the economy will continue to improve with Medvedev in office. Medvedev has promised that he will also improve things like educations, healthcare, situation for the young, situation with the housing crisis,” he added.

“Medvedev is a Chairman of Gazprom and has background in law, and a liberal politician, which will certainly improve the internal economy and relations between Russia and other countries. And that, I think, will be translated into improvement of the business climate in all respects,” the analyst said. 

The business community has also welcomed the announcement surrounding the potential new president.

Eugene Lowson from the U.S.-Russia Business Council said he was delighted at the possibility of Dmitry Medvedev being the president.

“He is the person the U.S can really deal with on a mature basis. He understands the U.S. quite well. He has been in the U.S. several times. He has calm, deliberate manner. He thinks well, he listens well. He is very-very smart and he has a confidence of Putin,” Lowson said

“Putin is very popular – some 80%. Obviously, people want Putin to stay around in some capacity. That's almost the will of the people to be sure,” he went on.

“Whatever arrangements they will work out, it is Russian people's business. But everybody wants stability, everybody admires what Putin’s done in the last eight years in many respects. Other people over here have their thoughts but we in the business are extremely pleased that Putin has done what he's done. It's no doubt that it sits well with the Russian people to have him around and have him active in the government,” Lowson said.

Putin-Medvedev ‘dream-team’

If Putin accepted, the Putin-Medvedev duo could bring about changes but some analysts say their first job would be proving that their team actually works.

“Probably the most difficult task for Mr Putin and Mr Medvedev for the first year after the inauguration of the third Russian president is to prove to the satisfaction of both the elites and the general public, that this tandem works,” Boris Makarenko, political analyst said.  
Meanwhile, some suppose that the overwhelming victory by United Russia in the Duma election would give the party the numbers to turn the country into a parliamentary democracy, giving the Prime Minister more power than the President.

However, a change like that would involve amending the Constitution which Putin has adamantly disapproved of.

The West is still sceptical about Medvedev’s move while many Russians feel it could ensure stability.

“It depends on where you stand when you look at this new arrangement. The way most Russians read yesterday’s news is ‘Putin is leaving’ and giving way to Medvedev,” Boris Makarenko added.

Evgeny Minchenko, Director of International Institute for Political Expertise believed that “it will be a group leadership – not Putin and Medvedev only. I guess it will be a group of 10, maybe 15 people – the President, the Prime Minister, key ministers and heads of big state corporations.”