Medvedev denies Russia vote 'predetermined'
President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday denied that the fate of Russia's elections was predetermined by his decision to step down in favour of his political mentor Vladimir Putin.
"How can they be predetermined," a passionate Medvedev said in a clip of a television interview to be broadcast across the nation on Friday evening.
"Let the people decide who they vote for. Let them decide whether they support a particular political force or not."
Medvedev told a ruling party congress on September 24 that he would not be contesting the March presidential election and had asked Putin -- his current prime minister and predecessor as head of state -- to run in his place.
The move all but assures the former KGB agent's return to a post that he filled from 2000-2008 and could now hold for up to two more six-year terms.
Putin in turn announced plans to name Medvedev as his prime minister in a job swap that was condemned by Russia's enfeebled opposition as a practice reminiscent of Soviet times.
Medvedev was seen as the more liberal force when he came to power and spent much of his presidency promoting a modernisation agenda aimed at cutting Russia's dependence on oil and gas revenues.
But polls showed that he largely failed to connect with the voters while Putin remained the country's most popular politician by far.
The weeks preceding the fateful ruling party congress saw Putin make a series of campaign-style appearances that dominated the news while Medvedev stayed out of the public limelight while vacationing on the Black Sea.
Russian news agencies said Medvedev also used the interview to explain why he decided to drop out of the race despite saying in June that "any leader who holds the post of president simply must want to run" for re-election.
But that segment was not released to the media and was apparently meant to be aired for the first time when the three main channels broadcast the interview simultaneously at 8:30 pm (1630 GMT).
Medvedev's decision to lead the ruling United Russia party's lists in December's parliamentary polls raised eyebrows after his fierce criticism of the group earlier in the year.
He had earlier accused the party of "stagnation" and appeared to be aligning himself with more liberal forces in parliament while promoting pluralism and change.
Medvedev said Friday he remained confident of democracy's future in Russia and that no one was assured victory in either the parliamentary or presidential votes.
"Any politicians can crash in elections. These are not just empty words -- that is absolutely the case," Medvedev said. "No one is insured against anything."
© 2011 AFP