(CORRECTSs name of spokeswoman in 12 para).
28/7 Tass 22
By Itar-Tass World Service writer Lyudmila Alexandrova
MOSCOW, July 28 (Itar-Tass) —— As the Russian 2012 presidential election approaches and it is still unclear who of the ruling tandem – President Dmitry Medvedev or Prime Minister Vladimir Putin – will run, a wave of speculations is on the rise.
As Medvedev, 45, and Putin, 58, continue to keep the intrigue, the elites are split and each group works to lobby its candidate.
On Wednesday two political scientists called in a Russian daily for Medvedev to run while three anonymous officials said in an interview with Reuters that Putin, who ruled the country as president from 2000 to 2008, was definite to return to the Kremlin.
“I think Putin is going to run, that he has already decided to,” Reuters quoted a “highly placed source” as saying on condition of anonymity. “Putin has much more support from the people than Medvedev. Medvedev has overestimated his weight inside the system,” he said.
Reuters quoted the source as saying Putin had been troubled by the perception that his prot·g· did not have sufficient support among the political and business elite or the electorate to ensure stability if he pushed ahead with plans for political reform.
Two other sources also said Putin wants to run and could appoint a reformist prime minister in an apparent attempt to dispel fears that his return would usher in a period of stagnation.
Russian observers believe Reuters report appeared to balance an article published in the Vedomosti daily the same day. Head of the Institute of Modern Development (InSoR) Igor Yurgens and Deputy Director of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations Yevgeny Gontmaher called on Medvedev to run for the second term of office which this time will last six years.
Medvedev “has to cross the Rubicon and declare his decision to run for president.” Otherwise “the very fact of the refusal of incumbent president will trigger a large-scale crisis in the country,” they said.
The Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily said Reuters publication was likely a response to the article by Yurgens and Gontmaher. In an interview with the newspaper Yurgens recommended not to trust Reuters information hundred percent as he is well aware “how such a reaction can be generated by the forces who simply want to push the prime minister to certain decision.”
“Until the spokesman of the prime minister, Dmitry Peskov, clearly speaks out on the issue I am not inclined to trust the information of the news agency,” he said.
Peskov however was evasive. “Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin) is working, working hard, rather than thinking about whether to run in the election,” he told Reuters.
Medvedev’s spokeswoman Natalya Timakova refused to comment both the statements of anonymous officials and the article by “respected people.”
As Medvedev and Putin continue to keep mum about who will run, Russian and foreign media actively discuss political prospects of tandem members. In late May the Sunday Times, The Times, and The Australian quoted anonymous top-tier sources in the Russian establishment as saying Putin had already decided to run in 2012. The Wall Street Journal was of a similar opinion in September 2010.
Political scientist Stanislav Belkovsky told RBC daily “we shall quite a lot of times hear about Putin’s wish to run approximately until December 2011” when Russia is to elect a new State Duma. “Informed sources will again say that Putin has made the final decision to become the president.”
Belkovsky believes such statements are necessary to ensure success of Putin’s ruling United Russia Party and the All-Russia Popular Front at the parliamentary election. “There will be no success without the utmost mobilization of the administrative resource which is possible only in case the bureaucracy at all levels knows that Putin is likely to return to the Kremlin,” he said.
Head of the Efficient Policy Foundation Gleb Pavlovsky believes Wednesday publications were due to growing tensions in the tandem which “developed into a problem for its participants.”
“Within the tandem they cannot resolve the main problems and even draft a common political program to lift uncertainty in the country,” he told the Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Therefore, Putin and Medvedev are looking for a possibility to maneuver “in the most strange way: either through Chinese media or Reuters news agency,” he said.
Pavlovsky believes the tandem does not see how the situation is changing. “Half a year ago people waited for the announcement (about running for president) with trust and impatience, today they experience mistrust, irritation and alarm. Natural coalitions that emerged around the men have collapsed and turned into neurotic groups. Their members are running around with screams of horror and despair,” he said.
Alexander Malashenko from the Moscow Carnegie Center said Reuters report could be a result of the work of “a certain literary-political get-together.” “If we mathematically divide all opinions on that matter we shall get 50:50. Therefore it would be inappropriate to consider every puck rush and every hint as the final decision. It is simply guess work. So far I do not see which billiard ball is going to pocket,” he said.