Medvedev to address Russia 'as candidate' for 2012

29th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will deliver a state-of-nation address Tuesday that will be dissected for signs of whether he will stay in office or cede power to his KGB mentor Vladimir Putin.

Medvedev is not expected to directly mention the subject of the 2012 presidential election in his third annual message to be delivered to the joint chambers of parliament at noon (0900 GMT).

But while the preparation of previous speeches was conducted in public, the Kremlin has been unusually secretive about the content of this report.

The Kommersant business daily added to the mystery by revealing that only a select group of Kremlin insiders know what Medvedev intends to say.

"The final appearance of the president's address ... will only take shape a few hours before the head of state addresses the nation's elite," the Nezavisimaya Gazeta said in its own report.

With even the foreign policy part of the message under wraps, one senior Russian diplomat told reporters Monday that Medvedev was still rewriting various parts of his speech.

"The president has come up with some new ideas," said the diplomat. "There are a lot of problems to deal with out there."

The former energy executive's two previous messages both focused on "modernisation" -- a subject that has resonated throughout Russian politics without much evident progress.

But the respected Vedomosti daily reported that this address would be different.

"Medvedev will speak not only as the country's current leader but also as a presidential candidate -- one who is summarising the results (of his three years in office) and making new election promises," the paper wrote.

Vedomosti said Medvedev was likely to criticise his government -- which is headed by Putin -- for its "sluggish" approach to economic improvements despite the heavy funds awarded to the drive.

Medvedev is also expected to warn that Russia is in danger of "backtracking" on recent revitalisation efforts in what some in the media interpreted as another attack on Putin's team.

The Russian president this month made an effort to distinguish himself from the pro-Kremlin party that has dominated the country's politics since its formation under Putin in 2001.

Medvedev accused the United Russia party of "stagnation" -- a term used by historians to describe the terminal drift that the Soviet Union entered before its final collapse -- and of distilling the country's competitive spirit.

Some analysts suggested that Medvedev would adopt the "change" platform that was championed by US President Barack Obama in his own surprisingly effective election campaign two years ago.

"This will be Medvedev's last chance to speak before the start of the election cycle," said Community Party member Ivanov Melnikov.

"The address will be less general in scope and look more like a direct appeal to the citizens," the deputy lower house of parliament speaker said.

Any such appeal to the people could frowned upon not only by Putin but also by the vast group of Kremlin insiders who support his formal return.

Putin stepped down as required by the Russian constitution in 2008 after serving two consecutive terms as president, but is eligible to run for the office again in 2012.

He has rarely been challenged by Russian officials and even US diplomats concede in private that Medvedev is being held hostage to his prime minister's whims.

But Putin insists that a formal decision on who will stand for president will be made jointly by himself and Medvedev -- and that it will be done so in private and on peaceful terms.

"We will take a look at how the economy is doing and what the political situation is and then make the corresponding decision," Putin said last Thursday in a repeat of a phrase that has been often used by Medvedev himself.

© 2010 AFP

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