Putin to return as president in 2012: poll
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will likely return as president next year and appoint a reformist prime minister, Russia-based economists, bankers and businessmen said.
A poll of more than 20 participants in this week's Reuters Russia Investment Summit also found about half the respondents thought economic growth in Russia will slow next year because of global financial problems.
Asked about the outcome of the presidential election in March, nine said Putin would return to the Kremlin and name a reformist premier. Three said he would become president again but appoint a conservative to lead the government.
Two respondents said Dmitry Medvedev would remain president, with Putin staying on as prime minister.
In a sign of how sensitive the question is in a country where personal loyalty counts for much and Medvedev and Putin have not said which of them will run, the rest declined to answer.
"An announcement (on who will run) is clearly overdue ... This causes uncertainty because no one knows what the silence means," political analyst Gleb Pavlovsky said in a recent interview. "This strange process worries investors, the political class and the bureaucracy."
Some businessmen have held back from investing in Russia because of the uncertainty, fearing Putin's return after four years as prime minister could herald a period of stagnation.
Other investors have dismissed such concerns, saying they see little difference between the two leaders on economic policy and expected policies to change little next year, regardless of who was president.
CONCERN OVER ECONOMIC GROWTH
Barred by the constitution from seeking a third successive term in 2008, Putin ushered Medvedev into the Kremlin but has remained the paramount leader in the world's biggest country.
"There is a bit of perception there that Putin will be some kind of candidate for the status quo and Medvedev will be some kind of candidate for reforms and progression," David Reid, vice president of asset manager BlackRock's (BLK.N) Emerging Europe fund, told the summit in the Reuters Moscow office.
"But I think both men share many of the same ideas in terms of how to move Russia forward," he said.
While summit guests were not asked who might become prime minister if Putin returned to power, political analysts have said finance minister Alexei Kudrin was a likely candidate if Putin opts for a reformist.
Participants were also asked what impact Europe's sovereign debt crisis and recent financial market turmoil would have on Russia in 2012.
Eight of those who responded said the economy would grow 0-3 percent. Six said the economy would continue to grow at a rate of 3-5 percent and one said it would contract. One said he did not know what the impact would be and the rest did not reply.
The participants were also asked what they would invest in if they had $100 million to spare.
Six said they would invest in Russian stocks, five would go for rouble deposits and three said they would buy British property. One would buy gold, one opted for land, one went for a variety of currencies and another chose private companies.
(Reporting By Timothy Heritage; Editing by Dan Lalor)
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