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Putin, Medvedev May Announce 2012 Plans in December

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev will probably wait until December to reveal which of them will run for president in 2012, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The announcement may come in early December, shortly before the date of the March vote is officially set, said one person. There's no need for Putin to declare his intentions before the end of the year, said another person informed about the matter. Both people declined to be identified because the information isn't public.

Medvedev was handpicked by Putin as a successor four years ago because a constitutional ban on more than two consecutive terms forced him to leave the presidency. The president's chances of re-election will dwindle if he doesn't announce he's running for another term soon, Igor Yurgens, a Medvedev adviser, said in an Aug. 16 interview. Putin formed a coalition, the All- Russia People's Front, in May to rally support for his ruling United Russia party.

"I believe Dmitry Medvedev should say in September that I am going for re-election, full stop, that's it," Yurgens, who heads a research institute set up by the president, said in a telephone interview from Moscow. "Delaying it until December would be in the interests of the People's Front, the other side, but not the president's side."

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, declined to comment, as did the Kremlin press service.

The premier, who has remained at the center of power since relinquishing the presidency, leads Medvedev in opinion polls. He could serve as president until 2024 under new six-year terms, giving him a quarter of a century in power.

Stock Market Expectations

Putin's return to the presidency is the outcome priced into Russia's equity market, Julian Rimmer, a trader of Russian shares at CF Global Trading in London, said by e-mail on Aug. 18. Stocks would surge 10 percent if Medvedev, who's trying to combat Russia's reputation as the world's most corrupt major economy and attract foreign investment, continues as president, Rimmer said.

The 30-stock Micex Index is down 15 percent this year, in line with the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. Micex has lost 16 percent in the past month, compared to an 11 percent-decline for Brazil's Bovespa Index. Russia's dollar-denominated RTS index is the fifth worst-performing in the world this month out of 92 indexes surveyed by Bloomberg.

Neither Medvedev nor Putin has ruled out running for president next March. Medvedev, a 45-year-old former corporate lawyer from Putin's hometown of St. Petersburg, has pledged to loosen political controls if he wins a second term.

Fighting Graft

Medvedev has made fighting graft, improving the rule of law and cutting the state's role in the economy cornerstones of his presidency. The two men have clashed over foreign policy this year, and Medvedev supporters are urging him to run regardless of Putin's wishes.

The leaders said they plan to decide together who will run for the office. The election, scheduled for March 4 according to the Central Electoral Commission, must be called at least 90 days before voting day. Medvedev has said a decision will be made soon, while Putin said making it public too early would derail the system of government, which since 2008 has been based on a formal dual leadership.

In 2007, then-President Putin, a 58-year-old former KGB colonel, waited until Dec. 10 to throw support behind his longtime associate. Medvedev won the 2008 ballot with more than 70 percent of the vote before offering Putin the job of prime minister.

Postponing the news of the candidacy until after the Dec. 4 parliamentary elections would ensure that Putin's popularity is at its peak after a campaign by United Russia, Dmitry Orlov, an analyst at the Agency for Political and Economic Communications that advises the government, said by phone Aug. 19.

'Fight for Support'

Medvedev can't seek a new term without his mentor's approval because he needs official support to gain re-election, said Dmitry Oreskhin, an independent political analyst based in Moscow.

"To become president for a second time, he has to fight for the support of the electorate, and in Russia there is only one voter that counts, and his name is Putin," he said.

Putin's approval rating increased to 52 percent from 50 percent in mid-August, according to a poll published Aug. 18 by the Public Opinion Foundation, also known by its Russian acronym FOM. Medvedev's popularity was unchanged at 46 percent. The survey was based on interviews with 3,000 people Aug. 13-14. No margin of error was given.

©2011 BLOOMBERG L.P. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED; article also appeared at www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-22/putin-medvedev-said-to-make-2012-announcement-in-december.html

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