Here’s a quick extract from President Medvedev’s interview with Der Spiegel, (the whole of which can be read here) where he discusses Putin’s eyebrow-raising comments about how power is allotted in Russia:
SPIEGEL: Putin’s recent comment about the next presidential election greatly astonished many in the West. When asked which of you will stand for election, he said that the two of you would “sit down and reach an agreement” regarding what happens in 2012. Former President Gorbachev was shocked. He said that if an agreement was to be reached with anyone, it would have to be with the electorate. But the people apparently don’t play a role any more.
Medvedev: I would recommend that Mr. Gorbachev take a closer look at Putin’s words. He merely said that if Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev are still attractive to the people as political figures at the time of the next presidential election, then we will sit down and decide which of us will stand for election — so that we don’t impede each other. He did not maintain that we would decide among ourselves who would be the next president. That would of course be ridiculous.
Because that would mean there could be some kind of democratic deficit in Russia . . . And who’d have reason to think that?
To be fair, it seemed at the time of Putin’s comments that they did relate specifically to the issue of which one, of out of himself and Dmitry Medvedev would run in 2012, as opposed to the disturbing facility with which a person in authority can retain and prolong their hold on power in Russia, as Gorbachev has interpreted it. Still, a telling slip of the tongue like that is too good for any opposition thinker to miss.