Putin finds a new job?

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Vavra) - Presidential hopeful Dmitry Medvedev addressed the nation in a live telecast today and said, "I am ready to run for the presidency, and I appeal to Mr. Putin to give his consent to being appointed prime minister after Russia elects its new president."

"I think it is of tremendous importance to this country to have Vladimir Putin in the top executive post, that of prime minister. He led the ticket of Russia's largest political party, United Russia, which scored a landslide victory in the State Duma election. The new legislature and executive would not work to any great effect without him," Medvedev concluded.

The idea of the system being unable to work without Putin has become a cliche. In fact, nothing prevents the authorities from doing their job well now, and will hardly do so later. The phrase might mean something else-the desire to strengthen the firm bond, by getting the party leader to the position of prime minister. But then, the legislative and executive authorities had been working as a rather smooth team even before Putin.

So, Russia is sure about its next prime minister. Does this mean the ruling system is sure what it will be like after the presidential election on March 2, 2008? Hardly so.

Though Putin said more than once that he did not rule out for himself the prospects of being prime minister, I have the impression that Russian spin doctors are over-doing their search for the most elegant way out of a crisis that may set in with the end of Putin's presidency. The title "national leader" offered to him is too vague though impressive, while the prime minister post is entirely practical. However, there are stumbling blocks here, too.

The country's leadership cannot afford to forget how closely the television networks follow their work. Imagine a live broadcast of a customary Monday government meeting in the Kremlin, the future president chairing it and the principal ministers and presidential executive officers all in attendance. Medvedev will sit in the center, and Putin as prime minister to his right. Just picture Putin reporting his achievements!

Or a TV report about an eye-to-eye meeting of the president and the prime minister-Putin enters carrying a portfolio bulging with papers and answers the president's questions.

True, the television cameras can avoid the awkward situation by changing the format of Kremlin updates. After all, reporters are no longer welcome at Thursday government meetings. Conferences in the president's office can share the same fate. However, it may seem strange that state leaders' work is not regularly chronicled in a political system resting on the permanent demonstration of its paternal care of the population.

Of course, the structure of power might thoroughly change, and television coverage with it, if constitutional amendments make Russia a parliamentary republic with a puppet president. But this system appears very improbable in Russia since it runs counter to the public mentality and national political traditions.

Last but not least, though Putin is sound on current socio-economic affairs, he appears not to like them very much. He has a far greater inclination toward foreign politics, especially geopolitics. He is at his strongest in promoting the strategic interests of the national economy. Just picture him listening to the ministers as they haltingly report about something underfunded and something else behind schedule. He has long outgrown this petty routine.

Possibly, the prospects of Putin the prime minister are merely offered to the nation to have something to talk about before March 2? Or are they part of a great reorganization that Russia is in for?

But then, Putin is not really stepping down. I mean, he will not give up control of the future power system that the December 2 poll gave him. So does all this ado have any point?

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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