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Looking to the Future?

DW staff (jg)September 12, 2007

In a surprise move, Russian President Vladimir Putin has nominated the little-known Viktor Zubkov as his new prime minister in a major political shake-up ahead of crucial parliamentary and presidential elections.

Russian President Vladimir Putin using binoculars
The Russian president is looking to the futureImage: AP

The change comes after Putin accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov and the entire Russian cabinet.

Ahead of the nomination, commentators said the new head of government would be seen as Putin's choice as successor after he steps down next spring.

But most had tipped Putin ally and KGB veteran Sergei Ivanov, one of the two deputy prime ministers, as the heir-apparent.

Zubkov's nomination was announced by the speaker of the lower house of parliament on Wednesday. He is currently head of the Federal Financial Monitoring Service. The Duma is due to debate his appointment on Friday.

Resignation for president's sake

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, speaks with First Vice Premier Sergei Ivanov
Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov had been widely tipped as the leading contenderImage: AP

Fradkov, 65, said he asked for the cabinet dissolution because with elections approaching, Putin needed to have a free hand to make decisions, including those relating to personnel.

Putin responded: "You might be right that we must all think about how to structure the government so that it better suits the pre-election period and prepares the country for what will happen after the parliamentary and presidential elections."

Fradkov will continue on an acting basis in the post until the new premier is confirmed by the Duma. Elections for the Duma are scheduled to take place Dec. 2, and Russia will elect a new president in March.

Bouquets for outgoing PM

Fradkov and Putin shaking hands
Mikhail Fradkov (left) and Putin parted on good termsImage: AP

Putin thanked Fradkov for "substantial positive results" during his three-and-a-half years as prime minister.

"The GDP has been growing at a substantial rate over these years and the volume of economic development has been expanding, inflation has been declining and the incomes of our citizens have been rising," Putin said.

During the last transfer of presidential power, then President Boris Yeltsin named Putin as prime minister in 1999, several months before he became acting president.

The Russian president is still very popular among the population, but is limited by the constitution to two consecutive terms. Putin said he will step down next year, and whomever he endorses as a replacement is almost assured victory.