Putin agrees to run for Russian president

AFP , Sunday 27 Nov 2011

Vladimir Putin affirms his candidacy for Russia's December presidential elections in December and warns against the interference of foreign countries in the vote

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Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and current President Dmitry Medvedev speak during a United Russia party congress in Moscow, Russia, Sunday (Photo: AP)

Russian strongman Vladimir Putin on Sunday agreed to be the ruling party candidate in 2012 presidential elections that he is certain to win and that will fix the country's political future.

His nomination at a glitzy congress of United Russia was a formality after President Dmitry Medvedev announced in September he would give way for Putin in the March 2012 polls and instead take the job of prime minister.

The congress comes one week ahead of parliamentary polls on December 4 which United Russia is certain to win but could, for the first time in recent years, show that the authorities' once colossal public support is on the wane.

"I am grateful to (President) Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev and to the United Russia congress for nominating me and asking me to run for president of the Russian Federation," Putin said.

"Of course, I gratefully accept this offer, thank you," Putin added. The chairman of United Russia, Boris Gryzlov, had earlier announced that it had agreed to put forward Putin for the presidency.

Putin has dominated Russia for over a decade since taking over from its first post-Soviet president Boris Yeltsin in 2000. In 2008 he handed over the presidency to Medvedev after serving the maximum two consecutive terms.

"There is no more successful, experienced or popular politician in Russia than Vladimir Putin," Medvedev said in a speech praising his mentor.

"We have officially determined our political future not just for the short term but for the long term," he said. "There is no deception here."

Referring to his tandem with Putin and United Russia, Medvedev said: There is no other team than ours. There simply is not."

The nomination came at a mass congress attended by over 10,000 people at the Luzhniki sports arena, the same place where in September Medvedev announced he would be stepping aside to allow Putin to return to the Kremlin.

Medvedev and Putin made a joint entry at the election-rally style meeting to loud music and flashing lights with the delegates waving flags and chanting "Russia! Russia!"

The 59-year-old Putin's expected return could keep him in power through 2024 and turn him into Russia's longest-serving leader—as either premier or head of state—since the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

The nomination comes just one week ahead of elections to the State Duma lower house of parliament which United Russia is expected to win but with a significantly smaller majority than in the last elections on 2007.

In his speech clearly aimed at improving United Russia's election ratings, Medvedev said that Putin's decade in power had seen the creation of a new middle class in Russia and an eightfold increase in salaries.

He said that the results of the 4 December polls would have an effect on the presidential polls on 4 March and urged Russians to vote for United Russia in the legislative elections.

"I am convinced that our victory is not just advantageous but essential for the future of the country," said Medvedev.

Two polls published on the eve of the congress showed United Russia keeping its current majority but winning no more than 262 seats in the 450-member chamber.

Putin on Sunday warned foreign countries not to interfere in the country's December parliamentary polls and presidential elections next year.

Putin told a congress of the ruling United Russia party that foreign countries were paying NGOs in Russia "in order to influence the course of the election campaign in our country." He described this as "useless work. Wasted money."

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