In what could be the ulimate political job swap, his United Russia party also approved his proposal that the current president Dmitry Medvedev will take over Putin’s role as prime minister.
Putin ruled Russia as president for two terms 2000 to 2008 with a steely command that was widely criticised in the west as a retreat from democracy.
Constitutional rule changes have subsequently extended the presidential term from four years to six, Putin, if he won the election, could be in power for 12 years from next year. It would also mean he would have lead the country for almost quarter of a century.
Confirmation that Putin would run was announced today at the United Russia party conference.
Speaking to thousands of flag-waving delegates in Moscow’s Soviet-era Luzhniki stadium, Medvedev first accepted Putin’s suggestion that he head the party’s federal party list in December’s parliamentary vote.
The crowd erupted into a gasp of surprise and then applause when he said: “I think it’s right that the party congress support the candidacy of head of the government, Vladimir Putin, in the role of the country’s president.”
Russia has been gripped by months of speculation regarding the decision. Putin’s return – he is all but assured to win the March vote – will raise further concerns about the lack of democracy and growth of soft authoritarianism in the country.
The prospect of Putin in power again doesn’t come as a surprise but will cause concern in the west.
US diplomats believe that Putin always pulled the strings with Medvedev playing “Robin to Putin’s Batman”, according to frank dispatches released by WikiLeaks last year.
Putin took the stage after the announcement, launching into a pre-electoral diatribe addressing concerns over unemployment and corruption, and promising to improve the situation in the country.
“Huge tasks lie before us,” Putin said. “The focus of our attention must always be the people – the citizens of Russia.”
Medvedev addressed the long waiting game over the decision.
“Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] and I were always asked: when will you decide? Sometimes we were asked, have you two fought? I want to entirely confirm what was just said: what we propose to the congress, is a deeply thought-through decision.”
“I hope you’ll understand why we waited so long to publicly reveal our position,” he said.
As the head of United Russia’s party list, Medvedev said he would be ready to head the government – the role of the prime minister – if the party were to win, as is widely expected.
Political opposition is either banned or co-opted by the Kremlin. That could mean, in effect, that he and Putin would simply switch roles.
“Our loved country, our Russia, she must belong to free, orderly and responsible people,” Medvedev said. “I’m sure it will be that way.”