Medvedev vows response to Putin's coalition
President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday vowed a response to Vladimir Putin's efforts to create a broad coalition ahead of elections, in the latest sign of rivalry between Russia's ruling duo.
Medvedev pointedly declined to say whether he supported his prime minister's latest initiative to co-opt political and social forces and unite them around his ruling United Russia party in an "All-Russia People's Front".
"The appearance of this alliance will be accompanied by attempts to create other election alliances, forums in order to achieve maximum results during elections," Medvedev said.
"I believe that other political structures, blocs, parties will also be trying to fully participate in an election campaign," Medvedev told reporters in his first public response to Putin's initiative.
"Not a single political force can consider itself a dominant one but each should strive for maximum success."
Russia is heading into parliamentary polls in December followed by presidential elections three months later which could see both Medvedev and his mentor Putin running.
Medvedev spoke after Boris Gryzlov, the head of United Russia, said that if the new coalition performed well in the parliamentary elections it could nominate a presidential candidate as well.
Putin and Medvedev, seen as his junior partner in the ruling tandem, have both previously said they would agree who would run so as not to compete against each other. So far neither has ruled out standing.
But Putin last week sprang a major surprise by calling for the formation of the All-Russia People's Front in the run-up to the parliamentary elections.
He played on Russians' patriotic feelings, making the announcement in the city of Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad, scene of the savage battle against the German Nazis seen as a turning point in World War II.
"If such a force proves itself in December... then of course it can become a platform for the future presidential elections," Gryzlov said.
Observers say the competition between the two men has been intensifying in the past months as Medvedev, 45, wants a second Kremlin term and Putin, 58, shows no willingness to retire.
Some observers have said the creation of the People's Front is a clear message from Putin to Medvedev that he wants to return to the post of head of state he held from 2000-2008.
He handed over the post to his protege as the constitution forbade him from serving more than two consecutive terms as president.
Gryzlov was one of several top United Russia officials who met Putin Thursday at his Black Sea residence, where the powerful prime minister said he had spoken with Medvedev about his latest initiative and he supported it.
Last month Medvedev attempted to demonstrate he was his own man when he said he would soon announce whether he would run for a new Kremlin term.
He quickly backed off when Putin bluntly responded that there was nearly an entire year to make that announcement.
"'I (Putin) will be Russia's next president' -- such is the unambigous message coming out of the creation of the People's Front," political observer Yulia Latynina wrote in opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta this week.
The United Russia party, which is expected to form the backbone of the future coalition, controls parliament and few doubt that it could win in December even though it has seen support decrease in the past months.
© 2011 AFP