Dmitry Medvedev (R) and Vladimir Putin make a joint appearance at a congress of the United Russia party on September 24.

Story highlights

Medvedev says Putin has a better chance of being elected

He says he and Putin belong to "the same political force"

Putin has suggested Medvedev take over as prime minister

Moscow CNN  — 

President Dmitry Medvedev said Friday he had ceded his presidency bid to the country’s powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin because the latter is a more popular politician in Russia, who has higher chances to be elected.

“Prime Minister Putin is definitely the most authoritative politician in our country and his rating is somewhat higher (than mine),” Medvedev said in a taped interview with Russia’s national TV networks.

Public opinion polls in Russia have invariably indicated that Putin has been ahead of Medvedev in popularity ever since they constructed their ruling tandem almost four years ago. According to the most recent poll, conducted by independent Levada Center, the approval rating of Medvedev stood at 62 per cent in September, compared to Putin’s 68 per cent.

In his Friday television interview Medvedev said that he and Putin belong to “the same political force” and have “very close positions on all strategic and tactical issues” and therefore shouldn’t compete or quarrel.

“Can we possibly imagine, for instance, (U.S. President) Barack Obama competing with (Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton?” Medvedev asked. “Both of them were bidding for the presidential nomination … Both were from the Democratic Party, and (the party) finally decided which of them should run to gain the best election result. Our decision was the same,” Medvedev said.

“We want to achieve a political result, to win the elections – the parliamentary elections in December and the presidential elections in March – not to be nursing our ambitions,” Medvedev said. “Any responsible person’s ambition is to serve his country, and I insist on that,” he said.

Commenting on the statements made by some people that the outcome of the Russian presidential elections is “predetermined”, Medvedev said, “I consider such statements absolutely irresponsible, deceitful, and even provocative.”

“The decisions made at the congress are only recommendations to the party to support two people in the elections, no more than that,” he said.

Last Saturday Medvedev called on the ruling United Russia party to endorse Putin for president in 2012. Putin in turn suggested that Medvedev should take over the role of prime minister if the party wins parliamentary elections in December, in what would be a straight swap of their roles.

The announcement ended more than two years of speculation about whether Putin or Medvedev, his hand-picked successor, would seek to run for a second term.

Putin had stepped down as president in 2008 because the Russian constitution at that time limited the office to two consecutive four-year terms.

Under amendments to the constitution that came into force on December 31, 2008, the presidential term was extended to six years.

This means that if Putin is elected in March 2012 for six years, he would be eligible to run for another six-year term after that, potentially keeping him in charge until 2024.