MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday he will take on the role of prime minister if the man he is backing to be president when he steps down wins elections scheduled for next year.
First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, pictured behind President Vladimir Putin
"If citizens of Russia support Dmitry Medvedev and elect him for president, I will be ready to head the government," he told the congress of his United Russia party.
Medvedev, Putin's choice as successor, was officially confirmed as the presidential candidate of the United Russia party, it was announced on state television Monday.
In a secret ballot of party members, a total of 478 delegates endorsed Medvedev with only 1 voting against, according to the Russian news agency Interfax. Watch as Putin accepts PM offer »
Monday's announcement of Medvedev's confirmation was seen as a formality after Russia's incumbent leader threw his weight behind Medvedev, endorsing him as the party's presidential candidate last week.
Medvedev, who is also chairman of the state energy giant Gazprom, returned the favor 24 hours later when he asked Putin to serve as prime minister if he is elected leader.
During his speech, Putin paid tribute to his probable successor who he called an "extremely honest and decent person."
Accepting his party's nomination, Medvedev predicted that Russia was on the brink of "a unique opportunity" for development, according to Interfax.
"We have a unique opportunity to make our country more powerful, our civil society more developed and our social and economic spheres much more effective," Medvedev told delegates, the agency reported.
Putin and his party enjoy huge popular support in Russia. United Russia swept parliamentary elections earlier this month, winning nearly two-thirds of the national vote.
With Putin's backing and no significant opposition candidates throwing their hats into the ring, it is widely expected Medvedev, 42, will coast to victory in elections scheduled for next March.
Under Russia's constitution, Putin must step down as president at the end of his current term.
Putin told the congress Monday that he would not attempt to change the distribution of power between the president and prime minister if he became premier. In Russia, the prime minister has significantly less power than the president. E-mail to a friend