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by Kester Kenn Klomegah

Putin Appears to be Plotting Return to Power in 2012

(IPS) MOSCOW -- In his last days as President, Vladimir Putin has prepared to bring federal representatives under control of the cabinet in an effort to influence policy after he takes over as Prime Minister.

Putin, constitutionally barred from yet another term as president, will be Prime Minister after Dmitry Medvedev is sworn in as President May 7. His new position as head of parliamentary government will set up new power equations in Russia.

Putin had introduced envoys to the federal administrative districts -- seven vast areas comprising several regions each -- at the start of his presidency in order to strengthen Moscow's control over the regions amid post-Soviet chaos.

Under the current arrangement, the president appoints representatives in all seven federal districts, who are answerable directly to the appointing authority. They carry out the Kremlin's directives.

A presidential envoy supervises at least ten regional governors. The seven districts cover 89 administrative regions.

In taking control of these envoys, "Putin will tremendously increase his power vis-a-vis President Medvedev," Yevgeny Volk, researcher in politics at the Moscow office of the Heritage Foundation, a non-profit think tank, told IPS. "Putin will control not only regional economic development, but the political sphere as well. Presidential envoys possess a vast bureaucratic structure that incorporates the power agencies (such as the police, the prosecutor-general offices, and the federal security service).

"This will constitute Putin's power base, and could help him immensely if he decides to run for presidency again. It is also a strong safeguard against Medvedev to become too independent and ambitious."

The federal structure was instituted in order to limit the independence of the local governors, Volk said. "Now that they are no more elected, and all of them are appointed by the Kremlin, they are completely loyal. Putin wants this to further serve his interests. He needs to survive and win the next election. Thus he will tend to bring his people to every key position, and prevent Medvedev from acquiring too much power."

Volk said this would likely become a source of tension between Putin and Medvedev.

Under the constitution, the cabinet is dissolved the day of the president's inauguration. The new president has two weeks to put forward a candidate for the post of prime minister. The newly appointed premier then has a week to form a new government.

But the government is expected to move fast with the changes. Medvedev will be sworn in May 7. The next day, Putin is set to receive overwhelming endorsement by the State Duma, the lower chamber of parliamentarians, where the pro-Kremlin United Party holds about two-thirds majority. That would make Putin prime minister, as leader of the majority party.

United Russia is a strongly bureaucratic party that was designed for Russia's officialdom in the likeness of the former Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). At the last party congress Apr. 14-15 the party announced a new position of chairman, created for Putin. That post allows him to retain key powers when he becomes premier.

"I do not believe it is sensible for a head of state, wherever his political affiliations are, to lead a party," Putin said at the congress. "As for the chairman of the government (prime minister), a situation in which the head of the executive branch leads a party, it is a civilized and natural practice that is traditional for democratic states."

Putin has said repeatedly there will be no power-sharing disputes with the new president. Both Putin and Medvedev have said they will work in tandem.

Not everyone is convinced. "The model of power is still unclear. There is an attempt on the part of Putin's team to make the PM office the key pillar and the decision-making center," Prof. Lilia Shevtsova from Moscow's Carnegie Center told IPS. "Putin's rhetoric, most often, does not reveal his true intentions."

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Albion Monitor   April 30, 2008   (

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