Russia's ruling party is backing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to return to the Kremlin in elections next year. The news comes as a blow to current President Dmitry Medvedev's chances of a second term in office.
Putin has not yet announced whether he will run at all
The Kremlin-backed United Russia party will endorse Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for president in 2012, a top party official said on Thursday. The party's decision comes as a blow to current President Dmitry Medvedev's candidacy hopes.
Uncertainty over whether Putin will seek to reclaim the presidency in March next year, or instead endorse Medvedev has divided the political elite
"As for the party's position on the 2012 elections, United Russia will orient itself on its leader Vladimir Putin," senior party figure Yuri Shuvalov said in a statement on the United Russia website.
Pulling the strings
Putin served as president from 2000 to 2008, but was required by the constitution to step aside after two consecutive terms in the Kremlin. He chose Medvedev as his successor. Putin himself retained a great deal of power, becoming chairman of the party and prime minister.
Putin annointed Medvedev (l.) as his successor in the Kremlin
Neither has ruled out running in the presidential race. Both have said they want to reach an agreement "in tandem" about who will run, because they don't want to compete against each other
Putin said on Wednesday it was too early to announce a decision. He described the increasing public attention on the election as "a fuss."
Party members have said that Medvedev would only have a shot at a second term if Putin announced that he would sit out the vote.
According to a survey published on Wednesday by the Levada Center independent polling agency, 27 percent of Russians would like Putin to stand in the polls next year, while 18 percent would prefer Medvedev.
A quarter of respondents in the poll, carried out last month, said they did not want either man to stand.
Author: Joanna Impey (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Nancy Isenson