Sobyanin to Manage Medvedev Campaign

APDmitry Medvedev entering the Central Elections Commission on Thursday.
First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced Thursday that Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Sobyanin would head his presidential campaign.

Medvedev, speaking after submitting documents to run for president with the Central Elections Commission, also promised that the election would be fair and said his candidacy had not been President Vladimir Putin's idea.

Sobyanin, a former Tyumen governor, filled a Kremlin post vacated by Medvedev in 2005, when Medvedev was made first deputy prime minister. Media reports said at the time that Sobyanin had been promoted to Kremlin chief of staff to rally governors around Medvedev as Putin's possible successor.

Sobyanin's job involves organizing Putin's schedule and advising on foreign and domestic policy issues, according to the Kremlin's web site. He has also traveled abroad in a diplomatic capacity. Notably, he visited Britain in May 2006 to try to diffuse a dispute between Moscow and London ahead of a Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg.

Sobyanin is likely to delegate much of the work on Medvedev's campaign to his deputy Vladislav Surkov, who has more experience in getting out the vote, said Sergei Markov, a Kremlin-connected political analyst.

"This is a sign of trust in Surkov, who will in reality conduct the campaign," Markov said. "Sobyanin does not have great experience in this field."

Surkov was behind United Russia's State Duma campaign, which resulted in the party securing two-thirds of the seats in the parliament.

Anton Bakov, the campaign manager for Union of Right Forces founder Boris Nemtsov, said he doubted that Sobyanin and Surkov would work together on the campaign. "Yes, one is the other's boss, but both wanted this job and Surkov lost. There is no formal leader and informal de facto leader," Bakov said.

Nemtsov also submitted his documents to the commission Thursday.

Medvedev told reporters there that the presidential vote in March would be fair no matter what anybody said to the contrary. International observers have described this month's Duma elections as "unfair." "Is there anything for us to fear?" Medvedev said, Interfax reported. "Elections are the internal affairs of a state. However much they criticize us, at the end of the day all decisions are made by the voters."

Medvedev also said his candidacy was United Russia's idea, not Putin's. "Naturally, I discussed this with the president. I am a person whom the president has led, who has worked with the president for 17 years. ... But the initiative came from the party," he said.

VTsIOM, the state pollster, reported Thursday that Medvedev had the support of 45 percent of voters, while LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov tied for second place with 5 percent.