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Pro-Kremlin Party Chiefs Play Roles to Perfection

From left, the leaders of the Civil Force, United Russia, Fair Russia and Agrarian parties had supporting parts in the Kremlin's surprise drama.
From left, the leaders of the Civil Force, United Russia, Fair Russia and Agrarian parties had supporting parts in the Kremlin's surprise drama. (By Vladimir Rodionov -- Presidential Press Service Via Associated Press)

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By Peter Finn
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, December 11, 2007

MOSCOW, Dec. 10 -- The unveiling of Dmitry Medvedev as President Vladimir Putin's anointed successor Monday was a classic piece of Kremlin political theater.

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With television cameras rolling, the leaders of four political parties filed into the Kremlin, Medvedev in tow, to "propose" to Putin that the nominee in next March's election be the president's trusted lieutenant.

Under the Russian system, parliamentary leaders have little influence. A momentous decision such as this would be Putin's, and Putin's alone. But in front of pool reporters, who had no idea an anointment was at hand, the political actors played their part.

Putin shook the men's hands before inviting them to sit around a table. Medvedev sat to Putin's immediate left and Boris Gryzlov, head of the United Russia party, which won an overwhelming majority in the Dec. 2 parliamentary election, sat to his right.

Joining them were Sergei Mironov of the Fair Russia party, which is also represented in parliament, and the leaders of two tiny groups, Mikhail Barshchevsky of the Civil Force party and Vladimir Plotnikov of the Agrarian Party.

Gryzlov spoke up. "We would like to propose to you the candidacy that we all favor," he said. "It is First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Medvedev was studiously stoic in the face of this honor. But Putin was visibly pleased. "I completely and fully support this proposal," he exclaimed. "All of this says that we have a chance to form a stable system of power in the Russian Federation after the March elections, a power that will promote the same policy that has been reaping good results for us over the past eight years."

He noted that all "four parties rest on a wide platform and represent the interests of the majority of social groups."

Between them, United Russia and Fair Russia control 78 percent of the seats in parliament.

Gryzlov said he and Mironov held consultations over the weekend about whom they should support, before inviting the two other parties to join their talks. There was no suggestion that Putin was the director of this drama.

Medvedev said he would consult with these political leaders over the next couple of days. He will be formally nominated at a United Russia congress next Monday.

After the ceremonial meeting, Mironov told reporters it was important "that this man is the closest colleague of Putin."

All four leaders heaped praise on their pick. "Dmitry Medvedev is a person of absolutely democratic views," said Barshchevsky, whose party was established as a pro-Kremlin liberal alternative to parties such as Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces. "I hope that under President Medvedev we shall be able to advance in the construction of a democratic state based in law. I think this candidate is the best option for Russian democratic development."

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