Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview that he may seek a second term in 2012 amid speculation that his predecessor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, may also seek a return to the Kremlin.
REUTERS - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said he may run for a second term in office when elections are held in 2012.
"If this is necessary for my country and for the preservation of the course that has been formed in the last few years...I do not rule out absolutely anything for myself, including participation in this election," Medvedev told the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten in an interview.
A transcript was published on the Kremlin website on Saturday before Medvedev's visit to Norway.
Medvedev reaches the midpoint of his four-year term next month and speculation is building in Moscow about whether he will stand again or leave the field clear for his mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, to return to the Kremlin.
Most Russians believe Putin remains the ultimate decision-maker and wishes to keep the levers of power well beyond 2012, though he may choose to do so from a different post than the presidential one.
Medvedev, a long-time close ally of Putin, has drawn fire from opponents for promising bold reforms but failing to deliver. Some critics say he has no intention of making serious changes and is merely window-dressing.
Proponents say he understands the changes Russia needs and has a sincere desire to push through reform but is moving slowly and cautiously to avoid clashes with powerful hardliners.
Medvedev said in the interview that two conditions would have to be met for him to take part in the 2012 presidential election:
"First, as a minimum, the results of my work should be acceptable to our citizens; also, we should be guided by (a wish) to achieve a result rather than simply participate. Therefore, we shall see," Medvedev said.
Putin has already said that he and Medvedev will come to an agreement before the 2012 election about who should stand.
Some analysts have suggested that Putin and Medvedev could run against each other, offering voters differing visions of the future, but Medvedev's comments about wanting to achieve a result rather than just participating suggest he does not favour this option.
Most pundits believe that Putin's popular touch, long experience and strong rapport with ordinary Russians would enable him to trounce the wooden-sounding, lawyerly Medvedev in any direct contest between them.
Putin's own high popularity among Russian voters, the Kremlin's control of the country's political machinery and the weakness of the opposition mean that the candidate nominated by the current leadership is virtually assured victory in the 2012 election.