12/12/2007, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Putin picks his “heir” who will make him prime minister

Russia’s president backs First Deputy Prime Minister Medvedev as presidential candidate. Russian Orthodox Church is happy about the “balanced decision.” Jewish and Muslim religious leaders approve the choice. Putin’s dauphin wants his “venerated master” to take the post of prime minister.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – The nomination of First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as a candidate in the upcoming 2 March 2008 presidential election is Vladimir Putin's “balanced decision,” this according to the Patriarch of Moscow, Aleksij II, who today expressed his approval for the outgoing president’s choice.

In a press conference the head of the Russian Orthodox Church reiterated his full support for Putin which he had already indicated during the controversial Duma elections of 2 December.

The patriarch is convinced that the president knows Medvedev's active efforts in "the implementation of national programs,” in particular, the implementation of a programme for governmental accreditation of religious educational institutions and teaching the basics of the Orthodox religion in schools.

As in the 2 December elections other religious groups also reiterated their support for Putin. Both the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia and the Council of Muftis welcomed Medvedev’s candidacy.

Medvedev, who chairs the country's biggest company Gazprom, has not lost time in publicly stating that he wanted to see Putin appointed prime minister since his party, United Russia, won the parliamentary elections. He has also already made public his election programme.

Today in a meeting with the leaders of four parties who should back his bid for the presidency he announced his intention of using oil money to beef up social programmes, including education and health care.

Putin, who cannot run for a third term in office, has expressed his intention of remaining a key figure in Russian politics.

Several analysts speculate that by backing a soft candidate like Medvedev, who is well liked internationally and a staunch Putin supporter, the outgoing president wants to control the future president from the post of prime minister.

He is also banking on two goals that Russian voters seem to cherish: continuity and stability.

Surveys do in fact indicate that whilst not totally satisfied with what “Tsar Vladimir” has done so far, most voters will vote for his candidate to avoid a return to the chaotic nineties.

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