Medvedev wants new term, won't compete with Putin
President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday added to the uncertainty surrounding Russia's 2012 presidential polls, saying he wanted a second term but would not stand against powerful predecessor Vladimir Putin.
With just nine months left before the March elections, neither Medvedev, 45, nor Putin, 58, have announced their candidacy amid warnings from businesses that the uncertainty was now hurting the investment climate.
In an interview with the Financial Times whose transcript was released by the Kremlin, Medvedev kept up the intrigue but also appeared to end speculation that he and Putin could both stand.
"I will tell you one thing: I believe that any leader who holds the post of president simply must want to run," he said.
"Another issue is whether he will take this decision or not, this decision stands somewhat apart from his wishes."
The interview appeared riddled with mixed messages, with the Kremlin chief saying Russia needed political competition yet expressing concern that running against Putin could hurt development.
"The thing is that Vladimir Putin -- both my colleague and old friend -- and I still largely represent the same political force," Medvedev said, adding that competing with his fellow Saint Petersburger would be "hard to imagine."
"In this sense, competition between us could in fact harm those tasks and goals we have been pursuing for the past years. Therefore probably this would not be the best scenario for our country and this concrete situation."
But he also added: "In the absence of political competition the foundations of a market economy are beginning to disappear."
Medvedev last month held a major solo news conference and on Friday gave a keynote address to the Saint Petersburg Economic Forum, where some of his supporters hoped for a clear statement of his intentions.
But on both occasions he only gave the tantalising promise that the announcement would come "soon".
President between 2000 and 2008, Putin had to stand down after serving two consecutive terms.
He installed his long-time associate and former chief of staff Medvedev in the Kremlin, becoming the all-powerful prime minister.
Long described as Putin's place-holder, Medvedev earlier this year made several bold attempts to show he was his own man, notably slapping down Putin for his fierce criticism of the Western campaign in Libya.
Putin appeared displeased by such new-found independence and last week the two made a show of renewed unity by taking a joint bike ride.
Medvedev said in the interview that the intrigue should be kept alive for "a bit longer," even though he acknowledged that in a country like Russia electoral certainty was critically important for investors who have taken billions of dollars out of the country in recent times.
Many observers believe the final decision on who will run rests with Putin, whose political coalition will meet for a major convention in September.
But Medvedev's caution over his future sometimes sits awkwardly with his admissions that Russia is in need of radical change and decentralisation.
He added that his views on the issue of direct elections for governors -- abolished under Putin --- had been evolving, suggesting the country might need to rehabilitate the institution in the future.
"I don't think that is the question of today and tomorrow. But this topic remains open, of course," he said.
The absence of clarity about his 2012 plans discredits Medvedev's pledges to press ahead with his modernisation agenda, said financial daily Vedomosti, calling his projects "pipe dreams."
Yury Korgunyuk, an analyst with Indem think tank, said the interview was another ploy to muddy the waters ahead of the polls.
"They've been pulling our leg for four years," he told AFP. "In reality, they've agreed on everything a long time ago."
© 2011 AFP