Medvedev is new Russian president, vows to follow Putin policies

March 3rd, 2008 - 8:26 pm ICT by admin  

Moscow, March 3 (Agencies) Lawyer-turned-politician Dmitry Medvedev was Monday elected Russia’s new president by a landslide and declared immediately that he will pursue his mentor and predecessor Vladmiri Putin’s policies. Even before a formal announcement of his victory was announced, Medvedev, who has been the first deputy prime minister in Putin’s cabinet, said his presidency would be a “direct continuation” of the policies of his predecessor.

Medvedev polled 70.11 percent of the vote with about 96 percent of the ballots counted, the Central Election Commission (CEC) said.

His nearest rival, Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov was on 17.84 percent, Nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky got 9.43 percent and the leader of the pro-Western Democratic Party Andrey Bogdanov secured only 1.28 percent of the vote.

The overwhelming lead is enough to give Medvedev victory in the first round of voting. The voter turnout was 69.6 percent.

Speaking to journalists, Medvedev said his presidential programme would be “the path chosen by our country eight years ago”, Ria Novosti and other news agencies reported.

This path, he clarified, was the one “being followed by President Putin”.

Medvedev was publicly backed by Putin as his successor in mid-December, and was later nominated by the ruling United Russia party as presidential candidate.

Putin has said he would take up an offer by Medvedev to become prime minister if his “heir” were to win the presidency.

Many political analysts have suggested that Medvedev would struggle to make an impact as president with Putin as prime minister. There were also suggestions that a change in the constitution might give Putin more power.

However, Medvedev seemed to rule this out Monday: “According to the structure of authority, the president has his own powers and the head of government his own. This is derived from the constitution and the law. No one is proposing to change this.”

Medvedev is to take over the trappings of the presidency in May.

Many Western observers, including the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) main election arm, chose to boycott the election over restrictions imposed by Russia.

Critics also pointed to pressure on voters to cast their ballots, especially employees of state-run organisations.

The refusal of the Russian authorities to register a number of candidates from the opposition due to “irregularities” in their applications was also cited, as was the lack of media coverage of the candidates given permission to stand.

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) election-monitoring mission said the elections had been held in accordance with the law. The CIS is an alliance of a number of former Soviet republics.

Putin and Medvedev graduated from the same law school of St. Petersburg Leningrad State University and have been known to each other for 17 years.

Putin brought Medvedev to Moscow in 1999, shortly after the then president Boris Yeltsin resigned and handed Putin the presidency. Medvedev joined Putin’s staff and headed Putin’s election campaign in 2000.

From 2001 to 2003, besides his day-to-day responsibilities in the Kremlin staff supporting the president’s duties, Medvedev was also assigned to special projects.

Medvedev also helped Putin end the popular election of governors and pass other laws strengthening the Kremlin’s grip on politics.

For most of his professional career, Medvedev had been a behind-the-scenes player. All that changed in November 2005, when Putin named him to a specially created post as first deputy prime minister in charge of five national projects.

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