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Putin indicates he wants to be prime minister

President Vladimir Putin speaks Monday in  Moscow. Associated Press
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
President Vladimir Putin speaks Monday in Moscow. Associated Press (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)

MOSCOW – President Vladimir Putin on Monday gave the clearest indication yet that he intends to continue to rule Russia after his term expires next spring, possibly by becoming prime minister, an office that analysts here say he could make as all-powerful as the presidency.

To be prime minister “is quite a realistic proposal,” Putin told delegates at the electoral congress of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, which dominates parliament. He added that “it’s too early to think about that,” but Putin is not given to idle hypotheses.

Political analysts and party delegates pounced on the remarks as an unofficial declaration of Putin’s intention to leave the Kremlin next spring and move quickly to Russia’s White House, where the prime minister works.

“The president will keep his constitutional authority, but the real levers of power will shift to the prime minister’s office,” said Alexei Makarkin, deputy head of the Center for Political Technologies in Moscow. “Political practice, not any constitutional changes, will allow him to continue to dominate.”

Putin’s typically coy and charged remarks came as he agreed to head the United Russia ticket in parliamentary elections in December, a decision that will guarantee him a seat in parliament if he wants it.

United Russia dominates the State Duma. By heading its ticket, Putin could help it maintain its dominance, and possibly secure a two-thirds majority in the next parliament, which until now seemed beyond it. That would allow it to change the constitution at will.

Analysts have suggested the party might remove the limit of two consecutive terms or strengthen the powers of the prime minister, though others say that in view of Putin’s informal influence, he needs neither step to continue dominating politics.