With Vladimir Putin moving back towards the presidency. he and outgoing Russian President Dimitry Medvedev completed their swap to the last detail.
Putin has to reassume the "above politics" role of the Russian president. so he has shed his affiliation with the United Russia Party and recommended that Dmitry Medvedev assume the chairmanship of the party. When the non-party Putin recommends, the party listens. The party chairmanship will go hand-in-hand with Medvedev shifting to the job of prime minister.
The one thing that has changed from the previous swap, in which Putin vacated the presidency for the prime minister's office, has been the creation of the All-Russia People's Front, an unsuccessful attempt to compensate for the declining popularity of the United Russia Party by recruiting independents.
Some observers have speculated that the front, set up by Putin, constitutes a sort of insurance policy for the Russian president, in case of unexpected developments in the party. The party has requested that those elected as "independents" should join the party, but has met resistance.
In one of his last speeches as president, dutifully carried by national television, Medvedev continued to play the role of democratic foil to the more authoritarian Putin.
Medvedev credited his presidency for making Russian society "more open and more successful" and cited the "renewed interest of Russians in politics." (This renewed interest in politics was a euphemism for the wave of demonstrations that followed the rigged elections for the Duma).
Medvedev claimed that the Russian political system had been stabilized from the anarchy into which it had descended during the decade following the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Now it was necessary to tilt back in the other direction, because over-stabilization could become synonymous with stagnation. Consonant with the prime minister's leadership of the economy, Medvedev promised less bureaucracy, more privatization of state-owned companies and a fight against corruption that would be spearheaded by new agencies.
If during his presidency, some analysts extended to Medvedev the benefit of the doubt and hoped that he would become a force for greater liberalism; his current liberal proposals have aroused skepticism and a feeling of deja vu.
The main reason for this skepticism is that Medvedev failed to use the post of president to push through liberal reforms. Now that he is in the subordinate position of Prime Minister, a position that he holds at Putin's pleasure, it is definitely a leap of faith to see him pursuing liberal policies in earnest.
The attempt to fully recreate the Putin-Medvedev tandem is now being viewed as dysfunctional for the Russian political system, as it perpetuates United Russia and the regime itself as a catchall - with no common denominator, except for a desire to stay in power.