Russia's prime minister and former president has officially accepted the United Russia party nomination for the country's presidency. Vladimir Putin is almost certain to win the ballot in March 2012.
Putin looks a shoo-in for four more years as president
Vladimir Putin accepted his ruling party's nomination to be Russia's next president on Sunday. The Russian prime minister is therefore likely to return to the presidential position next year, having previously occupied it from 2000 to 2008.
"Of course, I accept the proposal with gratitude," Putin said before a crowd of some 10,000 supporters chanting his name at a Moscow sports stadium. The congress was broadcast live on national television. The 614 delegates from the United Russia party voted unanimously to nominate Putin as their candidate.
Medvedev and Putin: the world's most powerful job-swappers?
Russians are set to vote in parliamentary elections in December, with the presidential ballot following in March 2012. Putin said that both votes were likely to garner criticism from other countries, not least European countries and the United States.
"All our foreign partners need to understand this: Russia is a democratic country, it's a reliable and predictable partner with which they can and must reach agreement but on which they cannot impose anything from the outside," Putin said, alluding to some organizations allegedly funding opposition groups and parties in the Russian political landscape.
He said foreign governments "would do better to pay off their debts with this money and stop pursuing inefficient and costly economic policies," in an apparent dig at the debt problems facing much of Europe and the US.
Public approval ratings of United Russia have been sliding in recent months, and Putin's candidacy is thought part of a plan to boost voter awareness and party popularity ahead of the parliamentary election. But recent polls have shown a drop in support for Putin as well, particularly among the young, cosmopolitan middle class.
Putin failed in his attempt to expand his base through the creation of the all-Russia National Front. He also did not succeed in his bid to win over the critical middle class through the creation of a conservative-liberal party with billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov at the helm. Although serious opposition parties are marginalized and sidelined within the political process, one look at the Russian blogosphere makes clear how much the dissatisfaction with the political system has grown in certain sectors of society.
Putin, 59, was constitutionally obliged to leave the presidency in 2008, having served the maximum eight years (two electoral terms) in office. He took up the prime minister's position instead, and in the past four years Russia's constitution has been changed to permit a politician to return to the presidency after a hiatus.
Dmitry Medvedev, who took over Putin's position as president, is likely to become prime minister, as the United Russia duo repeat their 2008 job-swap, but in reverse.
Author: Ingo Mannteufel, Mark Hallam (AFP, AP, Reuters)
Editor: Andreas Illmer