Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Medvedev says Putin should be PM

(BBC) Russian President Vladimir Putin should become prime minister after stepping down next year, his chosen successor Dmitry Medvedev says.

Mr Putin named Mr Medvedev on Monday as his favourite for the presidency. Mr Putin's own popularity is likely to ensure he is elected, analysts say.

Mr Putin steps down in March but is expected to retain political influence.

Mr Medvedev was Mr Putin's chief of staff and is currently a first deputy PM and chairman of gas giant Gazprom.

"I appeal to [President Putin] with a request to give his agreement in principle to head the Russian government after the election of the new president," Mr Medvedev said on Russian television on Tuesday.

"It's one thing to elect a president - it's no less important to maintain the efficiency of the team," he said.

Uncharted territory

Mr Putin is constitutionally obliged to quit after his second presidential term ends next year.

It is not clear how the president will respond to Mr Medvedev's offer. Mr Putin's spokesman says only that he will continue to work as president until the day his term runs out.

In post-Soviet Russia, the president has always been more powerful than the prime minister.

If Mr Putin were to become prime minister, that could change, according to the BBC's Moscow correspondent, James Rodgers.

But, he says, this has never been tried before and it raises the risk of a conflict unless there is a clear understanding of how powers will be divided between the two posts.

Hot favourite

Mr Medvedev said on Tuesday that he wanted the benefits of economic growth to reach all sections of Russian society.

"Now we need to convert all the successes achieved in the past eight years into real programmes," he said.

If elected president, he said, he would pay the greatest attention to social issues.

Mr Medvedev was addressing leaders of the four pro-Kremlin parties backing him, including United Russia, the party which won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections earlier this month.

The 42-year-old former lawyer managed Mr Putin's election campaign in 2000.

As first deputy prime minister he has overseen national programmes in the areas of health, housing and education.

Russia has made huge economic gains as a result of soaring international oil prices.

The government has been facing demands to channel energy revenues into pensions, benefits and parts of the country's infrastructure that have been decaying since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Pressure for continuity

Mr Putin has made it clear he will retain a significant national leadership role after he leaves office at the end of his second term.

He has said he expects Mr Medvedev to provide continuity.

"We have the chance to form a stable government after the elections in March 2008. And not just a stable government, but one that will carry out the course that has brought results for all of the past eight years," Mr Putin said on Monday.

United Russia leader Boris Gryzlov highlighted Mr Medvedev's role in managing national projects aimed at raising Russian living standards.

"Dmitry Anatolyevich [Medvedev] oversees national projects," he said.

"He oversees the demographic programme and we believe that it is precisely the issues to do with raising standards of living that are the most important issues for the forthcoming four-year period."

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