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Medvedev Says He May Run in 2012 If ‘the People’ Support Him

Medvedev says he may run in 2012
Russian president Dmitry Medvedev. Photographer: Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/Bloomberg

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev used his Silicon Valley debut to identify 10 goals for his first term and said he may seek a second to finish what he started.

More than halfway through his four-year term, major reforms are underway in every area of society, from education and health care to the judicial, political and financial systems, Medvedev said in a speech at Stanford University yesterday.

“This is indeed a big trial, but at the same time there is a feeling of responsibility for what you have started,” Medvedev said when asked by an audience member if he planned to run again in 2012. Medvedev says he “does not rule out” seeking re-election if he has “the support of the people.”

Medvedev succeeded Vladimir Putin after the now-premier’s second and constitutionally last consecutive term ended in 2008 The two men, who have worked together since their days in the St. Petersburg mayor’s office in the 1990s, have both said they run Russia as a team. Putin, 57, has never ruled out returning to the Kremlin and said “don’t hold your breath” in December when asked in a call-in show if he planned to retire.

The speech at Stanford was “a signal” that Medvedev intends to run, said Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.

‘The People’

“This reference to ‘the people’ is important,” Trenin said. “It means that this is not something that will be decided by his colleagues, by his mentor, by the party, but by the people and his popularity rating is pretty comfortable.”

Medvedev’s “trust” rating this month fell 3 points, less than the margin of error, to 53 percent, the lowest since the first quarter of 2008, according to the Public Opinion Fund. Putin’s rating also fell 3 points, to 61 percent, the lowest since 2006.

The Russian leader toured Silicon Valley companies including Cisco Systems Inc. and Apple Inc. yesterday as part of his efforts to create a technology hub near Moscow and lure foreign investment. Medvedev, a lawyer by training who has a blog, has made modernizing the world’s largest energy producer the keystone of his economic policy.

The U.S. tour, which includes talks today in Washington with President Barack Obama, is designed to shift the focus of relations between the two Cold War rivals to trade from bombs, after striking a deal on nuclear weapons in March, said Ben Rhodes, a U.S. deputy national security adviser.

The U.S. and Europe shouldn’t be fooled by Medvedev’s new marketing campaign to soften Russia’s image because Putin still calls the shots and will return to the Kremlin in 2012, said Mikhail Kasyanov, Putin’s prime minister from 2000 to 2004 who has written a book critical of his former boss.

“I have no doubt that Putin has already decided to take back the presidency not via elections but via an imitation of elections,” Kasyanov said in an interview in Moscow. “They see in Medvedev a source of modernization and change. But nothing will happen because there’s no gap between him and Putin.”

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