Medvedev: Putin Should Be Prime Minister
Tuesday, December 11, 2007; 2:35 PM
MOSCOW -- The day after President Vladimir Putin threw his colossal political weight behind a loyal aide in the 2008 presidential race, the aide returned the favor Tuesday, urging Putin to accept the post of prime minister.
After a series of improbable twists, Russia's political course _ for years the source of speculation and uncertainty _ suddenly seems to have been carved in the red granite on Lenin's Tomb.
If he chooses, Putin appears ready to retain effective power for the next several years _ and possibly far beyond that.
On Monday, Putin endorsed Dmitry Medvedev, a first deputy prime minister who has faithfully served Putin since the Russian leader's days in St. Petersburg city hall, in the March 2 presidential contest.
With the Kremlin's money, media and political machinery behind him, Medvedev seems assured of victory.
On Tuesday, Medvedev pressed Putin to accept the post of prime minister _ although Putin, who always seems to be testing the political waters, has pointedly not yet accepted.
The final piece of Russia's political jigsaw puzzle _ acceptance of the offer _ seems likely to fall into place in the next few days.
If Medvedev becomes president and Putin prime minister, Medvedev would hold the more powerful office _ under the constitution. Putin has spent nearly eight years expanding the Russian president's already considerable statutory powers.
But that could change. Following Dec. 2 elections, Putin's United Russia party controls 70 percent of the seats in parliament, more than enough to muster the two-thirds majority needed to alter the constitution.
Putin has said in the past he would consider accepting the prime minister's post, but would oppose increasing its powers at the expense of the president.
Some analysts point out, however, that tinkering with the constitution might not be necessary.
Andrei Kortunov of the Eurasia Foundation in Moscow told AP Television News that if Putin becomes prime minister, "the center of gravity will readily shift" away from the president's office to Putin.