'Strange' Medvedev befuddles Russia: media

19th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday prompted a chorus of boos from the media and analysts after he kept the country guessing about his plans for a possible second term at a key news conference.

On Wednesday, the Kremlin chief convened over 800 journalists at a technology centre outside Moscow that is the centrepiece of his modernisation drive for the biggest news conference of his presidency that many hoped he would use to finally clarify his plans for 2012 elections.

Instead, he used the two-hour-long media appearance to gloss over his recent disagreements with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and refused to offer any firm new indications of his ambitions.

"Mr President, what was that all about?" asked Alexander Minkin, writing in the mass-circulation Moskovsky Komsomolets and calling Medvedev a "Kremlin dreamer."

In an equally scathing front page story, business daily Vedomosti wrote: "Dmitry Medvedev's first major news conference turned out to be strange: he neither summed up the results nor shared his plans for the future."

Russia is heading into parliamentary election in December followed by a presidential vote three months later.

Medvedev and Putin, his prime minister and mentor, have both said they may run but have not yet confirmed their plans, ignoring calls from observers to end the suspense they say is hurting the investment climate.

Medvedev last month promised to put an end to the feverish speculation, saying he would announce his decision "soon."

Then on Wednesday he put the decision on ice again, saying a news conference would not be the right forum.

"It is unclear why he had to choose this time and place to say that it was not the right time and place to speak about the things that are of the most interest to us," broadsheet Nezavisimaya Gazeta quoted analyst Mikhail Delyagin as saying.

Some analysts have lately detected an increasing swagger in Medvedev, whom Putin installed at the Kremlin in 2008 after serving the maximum two consecutive terms as president himself.

In recent months Medvedev has publicly disagreed with Putin by bluntly contradicting his statements on Libya and even expressing concern last week that the over-concentration of power was dangerous for the state.

While some expressed satisfaction with the Kremlin chief's cautious comments, saying he did not want to become a "lame duck" by making a premature announcement, others said Medvedev was waiting for Putin to make the final decision.

"I have a feeling the president has been rapped on the knuckles," Alexei Malashenko, an analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Centre, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

Another analyst, Lilia Shevtsova went further, saying Medvedev's apparent indecision might have amounted to political suicide.

"All of that looked not merely helpless. In front of the entire country Medvedev was commiting political hara-kiri," she wrote on the site of the popular Echo of Moscow radio station.

"Why did he have to take the stage if he has got nothing to say?"

"Endless gabbing about modernisation without the ambition or readiness to do anything undermines any idea of change," she said, noting that Medvedev's passive stance may help Putin retain his decade-old grip on power in Russia.

Economists said Medvedev's procrastination was bad news for business.

"The lack of any affirmative news... extends the political uncertainty in the country, which we think is one of the key factors in any existing discount of the Russian market to its emerging market peers," said Vladimir Osakovsky, an analyst at Moscow-based UniCredit Bank.

© 2011 AFP

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