Medvedev stays silent on 2012 polls plans

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday used a closely-watched forum to push a reformist agenda while keeping his own plans for next year's presidential polls tightly under wraps.

Medvedev told a political gathering of top Russian officials and foreign dignitaries in the central city of Yaroslavl that he favoured a "steady but at the same time gradual modernisation of our political system."

"Some say that we should be doing everything very quickly ... while another position says we should not be doing anything at all because everything is more or less fine," Medvedev told the forum.

"The second position is just as short-sighted. We have to develop, but do so harmoniously and gradually."

Medvedev arrived at the annual Yaroslavl event while the city was mourning the 43 victims of an airport disaster that wiped out the local hockey team in a plane crash the day before.

The Russian president visited the site of the crash on his arrival but went ahead with a 30-minute keynote address at the hockey team's home arena that only briefly mentioned the disaster in opening remarks.

"Of course, it is hard to speak after such events," Medvedev said while asking the audience to observe a moment of silence.

He then methodically outlined a plan for Russia's future that relied on the federal authorities taking closer account of society's true needs.

"The state should adjust itself to modern life," said the 45-year-old lawyer by training.

"The state should be following public trends -- keeping up with them -- instead of dragging [the people] along," Medvedev said.

The Kremlin chief is widely seen as the junior partner in Russia's governing tandem led by his predecessor Vladimir Putin -- a prime minister with more nationalist views who once served as an intelligence officer.

Both men have refused to rule out contesting March elections that both would be the overwhelming favourites to win. They have vowed not to run against each other and to announce their decision soon.

Many analysts believe Putin has the final say on the matter and expect the decision to be made public either at a key meeting of the ruling United Russia party conference later this month or shortly after a parliamentary poll is held on December 4.

© 2011 AFP

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