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UPDATED: October 10, 2011 NO. 41 OCTOBER 13, 2011
The Return of Putin
Vladimir Putin is sure to win the Russian presidential election next year

MEDVEDEV-PUTIN TEAM: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (right) and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin make a joint appearance at a conference of Russia's ruling party in Moscow on September 24 (XINHUA/AFP)

At a meeting of the ruling United Russia party on September 24, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accepted a proposal by President Dmitry Medvedev to compete in next year's presidential election. The question about whether or not Putin will run for president finally has an answer.

Putin said there is a "comradely union" between him and Medvedev. They had "agreed long ago on who will do what," and what they have proposed at the congress was a "well-thought-out" decision, he said.

The power tandem between the two politicians has proven effective, as it has guaranteed Russia's overall political and social stability as well as economic growth. It is mainly because of Russia's domestic political rules that they waited to announce the final presidential candidate.

Then President Putin handpicked Medvedev as his successor in 2008. Russia's Constitution states that a Russian president cannot seek a third term in a row. To make sure he could be the president once again and stay at the position for a longer period, Putin made extensive preparations.

Planning ahead

When Putin started his second term in 2004, he hinted that he had his eye on another term. If Russia's Constitution didn't forbid three successive terms, Putin would not have chosen Medvedev as the next president. Putin became prime minister after his second term as president, and he has continued to set Russia's domestic and foreign policies, even though Medvedev serves as the head of state. With this tactic, Putin continues to stay at the helm of country.

Medvedev is a Putin ally. His personal characteristics and administrative style are quite different to those of Putin's. But he is a loyal supporter and implementer of Putin's policies, known as a mild reformer on Putin's team. All these made Medvedev Putin's ideal successor. Before the presidential election in 2008, Putin declared that he would win the election together with Medvedev, hinting that Medvedev's success was equal to Putin's holding onto power.

Putin also has kept Medvedev on track by setting up a cooperative mechanism between them. Unlike his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, Putin didn't quit all political titles. Instead, he became prime minister and set up the Medvedev-Putin power tandem. All Putin's confidants stayed in the administration, preparing for a future presidential election. Under the Medvedev-Putin cooperative mechanism, Russian people continued to associate top state power with Putin.

Moreover, Putin started to pave his way to the presidency by amending the constitution. Soon after assuming the presidency, Medvedev submitted a constitutional amendment to the State Duma, the lower house of Russia's legislature, suggesting extending the presidential term from four to six years. The amendment also stated that the longer term will take effect beginning with the next presidential term. Then, there was a rumor that Medvedev might resign within a year, so the country might have a presidential election at an earlier date. The rumor reflected the desire of the Russian elite for Putin's reelection.

After the financial crisis broke out in 2008, Russia's leadership adjusted the traditional division of responsibilities between the president and prime minister. The Russian Government's usual practice was for the president to be responsible for political affairs while the prime minister focused on the economy. Now Medvedev and Putin are sharing the responsibilities and risks of managing the country's economy.

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