Dmitry Medvedev: ‘Putin is more popular than I am’

The outgoing Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, agreed to step down because he believes Vladimir Putin is more popular, he has said.

“I note that Prime Minister Putin, without a doubt, is currently the most authoritative politician in our country,” Medvedev said in an interview with the country’s three state-run television stations. “His rating is slightly higher.”

Medvedev has been the target of ridicule in Russia since Putin announced that he would return to the presidency next year.

The interview is to be aired on Friday, but a transcript was pre-released by the Kremlin. Putin has said he will make Medvedev his prime minister.

“My main ambition is to be of use to my country and my people,” Medvedev said.

He stressed that he and Putin represented “the same political force”, and dismissed the idea of competition between them. “Can you imagine a situation where, for example, Barack Obama started competing with Hillary Clinton?” he asked, apparently forgetting the rivalry that divided the two in the run-up to the 2008 US presidential election.

Medvedev brushed off a question from the head of the state-owned NTV television channel, Vladimir Kulistikov, when he asked: “What’s the point of elections if everything is already decided?”

The ruling United Russia party’s support for Putin and Medvedev was “merely a party recommendation on who to support in the elections, and nothing more,” he said. “The vote is exercised by the people – and these are not empty words. Any politician can ‘fly’ in the elections. No one is insured from anything – what predictability?

“Let the people decide whom to vote for, who has more authority,” Medvedev said. “And only people, only our citizens, are able to place the final emphasis, voting for this or that person or political force, or rejecting it. That’s democracy.”

Putin is likely to win the presidential election, to be held in March 2012.

. Russia’s main liberal opposition, the People’s Freedom party, has been refused registration for a parliamentary vote, due in December. Other opposition parties, including the communists and the far-right Liberal Democratic party, are considered Kremlin-friendly.

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