Medvedev Offers Putin a New Job

APPutin greeting the Kuwaiti ambassador, Nasser al-Muzayyan, on Tuesday.
Dmitry Medvedev, endorsed by President Vladimir Putin as his preferred successor, asked Putin on Tuesday to become prime minister in his future government in order to ensure continuity.

Medvedev also said his priority in the Kremlin would be to raise living standards, and he praised Russia's growing might in the world.

Putin, who almost certainly cleared Medvedev's statements beforehand, gave no indication whether he would accept the post of prime minister. But he praised Medvedev as someone who respects democratic values, during a meeting with foreign ambassadors.

Medvedev's comments were his first since Putin backed him as the next president Monday, and they provided a glimpse into what politics might look like after Putin leaves the Kremlin next year. Medvedev, who has little visible power base in the Kremlin, is seen as beholden to Putin, whose preferred successor is expected to easily win the presidential election on March 2.

"Expressing my readiness to participate as a candidate in the presidential election, I am calling on [Putin] to agree to become the head of the Russian government after the election of the new president," Medvedev said in a speech shown repeatedly on state television throughout the day, lending it the appearance of a campaign ad.

Medvedev is not a registered candidate yet.

Sending a clear signal to the country's elite that he does not plan a government shake-up, Medvedev said, "It is important to keep the effectiveness of the team created by the incumbent president."

He echoed Putin in heralding the country's revival on the international stage. "The attitude toward Russia in the world is different now," he said. "We are not being lectured like schoolchildren. We are respected and we are deferred to. Russia has reclaimed its proper place in the world community. Russia has become a different country: stronger and more prosperous."

The conditions that Putin himself has set to become prime minister appear to have been fulfilled. Putin floated the idea of occupying the post on Oct. 1, but he said two conditions should be met first: United Russia must achieve a crushing victory in State Duma elections, and the next president must be a "worthy" person with whom he could work.

The Duma will "undoubtedly" support Putin as prime minister, said Pavel Krasheninnikov, chairman of the Legislation Committee in the outgoing Duma and a senior official with United Russia, which won control of the new Duma with its landslide victory in the Dec. 2 elections.

United Russia plans to nominate Medvedev as its presidential candidate at a convention Monday.

Medvedev met in the Duma on Tuesday with the leaders of United Russia, A Just Russia, Civil Force and the Agrarian Party -- four parties that back his candidacy. Emerging from the closed-door talks, he told reporters that as president he would make social development of the country a priority.

"We need to transform the successes achieved in the past eight years into real social programs," he said.

Medvedev has overseen health care, education, housing and agriculture since 2005 in his position as first deputy prime minister. The 42-year-old lawyer is also the chairman of Gazprom, the country's largest company.

Putin, for his part, appeared to start campaigning for Medvedev on Tuesday during a Kremlin reception where he accepted the credentials of new foreign ambassadors. Sipping champagne and smiling profusely, Putin praised his successor -- without identifying Medvedev by name -- as a person who respected democratic values.

"The position expressed by most of the population [in the Duma elections] allows us to expect that they will express trust in the man in the upcoming presidential election whose unconditional goal and priority will be to further the democratic development of Russia," Putin said.

The law does not allow the incumbent president to campaign openly for any candidate.

Oleg Morozov, a senior United Russia official, praised the idea of Putin serving as prime minister, saying he could not imagine "a team that would be more solid and rigid" than "a young, energetic and very skilled manager" as president and "the most respected" politician as prime minister.

This would allow United Russia to control both the legislative and executive branches, he said.

Putin, who aggressively campaigned for United Russia in the Duma elections and has acknowledged that the party is his brainchild, is not a member of any political party. Medvedev does not belong to any party either.

A Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov also voiced approval for Putin as prime minister on Tuesday, as did senior Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim clerics.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, said that if Putin became prime minister, most decision-making powers would move from the Kremlin to the Cabinet -- and that there would not be any need to change the law for this process to occur.

Under the Constitution, the country is a presidential republic, and Putin has successfully concentrated political and economic powers in the Kremlin during his two terms in office.

Liberal opposition parties, which criticized Putin's support of a Medvedev presidency on Monday, treated Tuesday's developments with modest optimism. Sergei Ivanenko, a senior Yabloko official, said Medvedev's reputation of being relatively pro-Western offered hope that domestic politics under his leadership would become more liberal.

Political analysts concurred that Medvedev's request for Putin to become prime minister was a well-measured move that had been approved -- if not authored -- by the Kremlin.

"Medvedev effectively kicked off his presidential campaign today, attempting to mobilize the support of pro-Putin voters," said Dmitry Badovsky, an analyst with the Institute of Social Systems.

The chances that Putin would become prime minister under the new president, which had been regarded as slim by many political analysts, are now looking like a viable option, said Tatyana Stanovaya, an analyst with the Center for Political Technologies.

"This position grants Putin enough power to continue acting as an arbiter for a potentially lengthy transition period," she said. "If he sees that Medvedev gets enough political strength to take over from him and follows his course, Putin may quietly quit. But being prime minister is a good post if he decides to return."

Under the law, if the president resigns or is impeached by the parliament, the prime minister becomes acting president and oversees the organization of the next presidential election.

Staff Writer Anna Smolchenko contributed to this report.