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The Technical President

An article has just came across the wire from the Financial Times debating not whether Medvedev or Ivanov would get the presidential appointment (not to be confused with a democratic election) – but rather whether the “third-term siloviki” led by Igor Sechin of Rosneft would arrange for a third option and the eventual return of Putin. The idea is that this “technical president” would largely only serve the function of a stopgap, and would withdraw (or be assassinated) after a short period of time and allow Putin to run for office again without changing the constitution (and thus preserving his highly prized constitutional credibility among other G7 members). The FT discusses the latest rumor of Valentina Matviyenko becoming the technical president, but the other theory I often hear discussed is that Mikhail Fradkov is the ideal pawn for sacrifice. They may be mere rumors and conjecture at this point, but they are certainly encouraged by commentary on term limits by both Mironov and Putin. Matviyenko0613.jpgfradkov0613.jpg Will Valentina Matviyenko or Mikhail Fradkov receive the dreaded privilege of the technical president? FT:

Instead, say analysts, business people and journalists, Mr Putin could come back in 2012, as the constitution allows. Or the next president could stand down early because of “ill health”. Another scenario is that the constitution could be changed early in the next presidency to allow longer presidential terms (an idea already being discussed), triggering elections in which Mr Putin returns. … Nezavisimaya Gazeta, an independent newspaper, recently agreed: “The option of a ‘technical president’ who will take the fire upon himself in 2008 … is becoming more and more plausible. Later he will quietly step aside, having prepared Vladimir Putin’s triumphant return.” Finding a “technical president” may be tricky. Sergei Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev, the two first deputy prime ministers most often mooted as successors, seem unlikely to fall on their swords. Enter, perhaps, Valentina Matviyenko, St Petersburg governor and Putin loyalist. She is seen as a “dark horse” candidate rumoured last year to have offered to serve one presidential term then stand aside for Mr Putin. Reports last month of a murky “assassination attempt” on Ms Matviyenko – why anyone should want to kill her is unclear – were seen by some analysts as Kremlin-backed political technologists attempting to create a presidential aura around her. Yet this could all still be a smokescreen. The Russian businessman says Mr Putin never allows anyone to guess his actions. “Whenever he has an appointment to make, he calls everyone in and asks for their recommendations. Then he chooses somebody else entirely.”