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 an interview with Russian television whose full transcript was released by the Kremlin.
"Such talk is completely irresponsible, misleading and even provocative," he added.
"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.
The lawyer by training was seen as the more liberal force when he came to power in 2008 and then 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 United Russia party congress saw Putin make a series of campaign-style appearances that dominated the news while Medvedev largely stayed out of the public limelight while vacationing on the Black Sea.
This contrast was especially striking since it came only weeks after the Russian president said that "any leader who holds the post of president simply must want to run" for re-election.
But he explained on Friday that he and Putin had many years ago decided which of them would be running again in 2012 and that he was only mulling his candidacy in case of a sudden upsurge of political support.
"I notice that Prime Minister Putin is now unquestionably the most authoritative politician in our country and that his rating is somewhat higher," said Medvedev.
The comments echoed a phrase dropped by Putin at the party congress about the two old allies having decided about the future power configuration shortly after completing the handover of power to Medvedev in 2008.
"So when I said that I do not exclude (running), I was not lying," said Medvedev.
"Life could have taken an unexpected turn. But we still had our agreements," he said in reference to the job swap.
Medvedev's announcement at the congress that he would be leading the United Russia'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.
But Medvedev said Friday he remained confident of Russia's democratic future
and that no one was assured victory in either the parliamentary or presidential votes.
"Any politician 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