December 10, 2007

Putin: “I Had Other Ideas for Dmitry’s Future”

21:44 | 10/ 12/ 2007

MOSCOW, December 10 - RIA Novosti. First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, nominated for presidency on Monday, is regarded as one of the people closest to President Vladimir Putin and, at the same time, has no close connection with the so-called siloviki, top military and secret service officers.

Four political parties, including United Russia, which won a landslide victory in the December 2 parliamentary election, presented their nomination of Medvedev to President Vladimir Putin on Monday for approval. Putin, whose second presidential term expires in spring 2008, supported his candidature.

Even before his presidency, Putin mentioned Medvedev among the few people he considered his comrades. Medvedev has made a greater part of his career side-by-side with the President-first in the St Petersburg Mayor's Office, and later in the Presidential Executive Office.

Few expected such a spectacular rise of a young soft-spoken and mild-mannered lawyer.

As Putin says in his book First Person, he appointed Medvedev deputy chief of staff of his Executive Office "with room for growth".

"I had other ideas for Dmitry's future. I wanted him to head the Federal Commission on Securities as an expert on the securities market. I think he likes working in our team. We will find him an appointment later on," he says in the book written during the election campaign in 2000.

Politics and Office Work

Medvedev gained experience in securities as Gazprom chairman of the board. The Russian gas giant largely owed him the liberalization of its stock and its spectacular capitalization.

Medvedev was first deputy of Alexander Voloshin, chief of staff of Presidential Executive Office, and replaced him in late 2003, soon after Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the owner of the Yukos oil company, was arrested. The press ascribed Voloshin's resignation to his disapproval of Khodorkovsky's persecution-assumptions that never received an official confirmation.

Medvedev entered big politics in November 2005, when he became the First Deputy Prime Minister, in charge of national projects. The projects were a program to consolidate budget allocations for the development of agriculture, education, health care and housing construction.

As Deputy Prime Minister, Medvedev did not limit his work to the office. The media loved showing him inspecting cowsheds, cooking an omelette in a newly gasified village, visiting schools newly connected to the Internet, and presenting new ambulances to hospitals. In short, he appears on the air more often than other officials.

Sergei Ivanov, the other First Deputy Prime Minister and Medvedev's publicity rival, was in charge of industrial policy and the military-industrial complex.

According to an opinion poll conducted by the Levada Center in November, 24% of respondents said they would vote for Medvedev and 25% for Ivanov. In August, Medvedev had a 34% public rating, and Ivanov 36%.

Both ratings shrank with the dismissal of Mikhail Fradkov's Cabinet, as a doubt rose whether the ruling party would nominate either of the first deputy prime ministers for presidency.

Most political experts think Medvedev has every chance of winning even in the first round to carry on Putin's policy, who remains Russia's most popular political leader.

"We have every chance of establishing a stable leadership in Russia after the March election-a leadership that will continue the line that has been so fruitful in the last eight years," Putin said to comment on Medvedev's nomination.

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