Russia’s Medvedev focuses on social themes

March 2nd, 2008 - 12:35 pm ICT by admin  

By Erik Albrecht
Moscow, March 2 (DPA) Dmitry Medvedev, the man Vladimir Putin handpicked to succeed him as the president of Russia, has no reason to worry about winning Sunday’s election. After Putin chose Medvedev, deputy head of government, as his desired successor in December, Medvedev’s approval rating raced from 24 to 70 percent. At the age of 42, he will be Russia’s youngest head of state since the time of the tsars.

Though initially he seemed insecure, he has looked confident and almost presidential in television appearances leading up to the election. He has presented himself as a liberal variation of Putin.

Medvedev’s credo is stability and the continuation of Putin’s course. In many ways the close confidant of Putin is a lot like the departing president was eight years ago when he came to office. Neither is especially tall. Medvedev’s facial expression sometimes looks awkward when out of habit he pulls the corners of his mouth downward. But at the same time, you can sense how alert and concentrated he is at work.

Putin built the ladder for his ally’s rise. He made him head of Gazprom’s board of directors and the energy giant is the basis of Medvedev’s power. Among gas monopolists Medvedev has a reputation for being painstaking and competent in handling his tasks. The candidate is one of the few politicians allied with Putin who did not previously have a career in the secret service.

Even before his nomination, Medvedev was featured in state television news reports almost exclusively in a positive light. He was responsible for the so-called “national projects” in the areas of education, health, housing construction and agriculture. He never spoke about ambitions for presidential office before he was anointed Putin’s chosen successor.

He presented himself as the liberal face of the new Russia just over a year ago at the Davos economic forum. In the campaign he has stressed social themes and portrays himself as friendly to business, while the anti-western statements coming out of Russia remain squarely Putin’s.

Medvedev and Putin have worked together for 17 years. A former member of the St. Petersburg city administration, he followed Putin to Moscow where as vice chairman of the Kremlin administration he organised Putin’s first presidential campaign in 2000.

Critics accuse Medvedev of being jointly responsible for the authoritarian developments in the country in recent years. He rose to the position of head of the Kremlin administration in 2003. Media reports say inside the Kremlin he is known as the vizier. Two years later, Putin made him deputy head of government and shortly afterward rumours surfaced that he had been chosen as Putin’s successor.

Medvedev comes from a family of university teachers in St. Petersburg. He and his wife, Svetlana, have one son. In interviews the otherwise dry politician admits to his enthusiasm for hard rock.

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