The political guessing game in Russia continues surrounding who is going to be the presidential candidate of United Russia.
Will Vladimir Putin dispense with his "seat warmer" Dmitry Medvedev and take back his job for another 12 years? It definitely looks like Putin wants his Kremlin residence back.
In recent weeks we have been regaled with scenes of the 58-year-old Putin demonstrating his vitality.
Now you see him deep-sea diving to bring up ancient Greek relics. Next see Putin astride a powerful motorbike.Alternatively, watch Putin the test driver handing out grades on the state of Russian roads.
Putin has taken a prominent a high-profile approach to the Gazprom Nord Stream pipeline and the recent deal between Russian oil firms and Exxon that gives the American company access to Arctic oil fields in return for giving Russian oil companies access to the Gulf of Mexico projects. Arguably these are projects bear on the economy and therefore are part of Prime Minister Putin's purview, but just as arguably these are events that have foreign policy implications and as such are part of President Dmitry Medvedev's sphere of activity. The show, however,is all Putin.
Not everybody, however, is counting Dmitry Medvedev out and this applies particularly to advisors who have been identified with Medvedev rather than Putin. One of them is Igor Yurgens, chairman of the board of the Institute of Contemporary Development, a consistent proponent of a pro-West liberal policy. Yurgens believes Medvedev has accomplished a lot over the past 3 1/2 years and "has something to be proud of".
Yurgens has "no doubt that Dmitriy Anatolyevich Medvedev will be the presidential candidate from the main political forces. In this sense I have no uncertainty," he said in a prediction made at the Global Policy Forum in Yaroslavl.
Medvedev used the same forum to make another of his liberal speeches. These have aroused cynicism because they do not appear to be implemented in practice. The Russian President defended the Inviolability of private property. "We tried to create a society without the rich in the past. That experiment led to stagnation, poverty and disintegration of the country," he said."
He attacked the top down approach:" I think that the state must follow social trends, rather than falling behind and dragging society down with it. Especially since the nation's leadership is made up of those same people, with all their insights, mistakes, misconceptions and values. "
Medvedev also defined himself as a backer of decentralism. "A sophisticated society with many groups and centers of influence requires further decentralization on our part, transferring certain governance functions to social organizations and responsibilities at the highest level to the regional and municipal levels."
One speculation making the rounds is that both will run and Medvedev will provide a "loyal opposition" to Putin. This will offer the Russian voter two for the price of one.