PUTIN PLOTS TO STAY IN POWER AS PRIME MINISTER
by Kester Kenn Klomegah
(IPS) MOSCOW -- If President Vladimir Putin does accept the post of prime minister offered him by the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, he would take a step down in the political hierarchy. For a while, anyhow.
Plucked from obscurity by former president Boris Yeltsin, Putin served briefly as prime minister before he was elected to serve two terms as president.
After the shock therapy of the change from communism in the 1990s, the 1998 devaluation of the rouble and the conflict in the Caucasus, Russia needed a political force that would unite the country. In 2001, Putin helped establish United Russia which now has the majority in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament that approves legislative bills and procedures.
United Russia, popularly referred to as Yedinaya Rossiiya, unexpectedly suggested at its annual congress last week that Putin take the post of prime minister if the party wins the Dec. 2 election. Putin is due to step down as president next year.
Putin in turn spoke strongly for the party. United Russia "can and must become an effective instrument for achieving social stability and for making the future parliament and the entire state system effective, be an initiator of development, and provide support for the executive bodies of government in implementing all their plans," Putin told the party congress in Moscow.
Putin "thankfully" accepted the proposal to head the party as "quite realistic," but put forward two conditions: first, that United Russia should win the parliamentary elections, and second, that the new president should be a "decent, competent and contemporary man" with whom he could cooperate.
Public Opinion Foundation (POF), a private social institution that tracks public views, has said that the offer of prime minister's post to Putin was the result of his growing popularity, and trust in his political authority.
More than 80 percent of Russians approve of Putin as president, and would vote for him, according to a POF survey last week among some 1,600 adults in Russia's 46 constituent territories. But the survey showed that leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov both trailed by only three percent in the poll.
"Russians admire and support the current leadership and will very much like him to continue with his development plan, especially with his special presidential projects that were initiated a couple of years ago for the regions," POF spokesperson Veronika Perevezentseva told IPS. His aims have come to be known popularly as the Putin Plan.
The announcement that Putin could be next prime minister follows years of speculation over what Putin might do after his term ends in May next year. Pro-Kremlin political analyst Gleb Pavlovsky has described a position for Putin as prime minister "the most politically logical solution to the problem of what Putin does when he leaves office."
"That was a clear indication of a party strategy intended to strengthen authority, and a further attempt to continue the Putin Plan. We know that this involves concrete social and economic tasks to be achieved within the next few years," deputy director of Moscow's Institute of Political Research Vyacheslav Lokosov told IPS.
"At the same time, what's important is for United Russia to guarantee stability and ensure a strong parliament," Lokosov said. "This is explicitly clear judging from decisions (including the proposal to make the founder of the party the next prime minister) that were adopted at the congress."
He spoke of a strategy that could be "one step down and then one step up." There has been much speculation that Putin wants to step aside for a while to then come back again as president -- with one of his trusted aides as president in the meanwhile. As prime minister, Putin could strongly influence the presidency in the interim.
Albion Monitor October
8, 2007 (http://www.albionmonitor.com) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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