MOSCOW President Dmitry Medvedev said on Monday the centralized Kremlin rule restored to Russia during the presidency of his mentor Vladimir Putin was outdated, adding to speculation of a rift between the two ahead of 2012 polls.
During his 2000-2008 presidency, Putin, 58, limited the activity and media exposure of opposition parties and curtailed the autonomy of sprawling regions that had raised fears among some in the post-Soviet era of national disintegration.
Putin, now Prime Minister, steered Medvedev into power in 2008 after the Constitution prevented him serving a third straight term. Medvedev, 45, has vowed to open up the country's political system, but few tangible changes have been seen.
Medvedev said the political process in Russia concentrated power in the hands of the president, leaving one person to intervene in and solve problems on a national level.
"This is bad, this means that we have a completely outdated, flawed system of (state) management, which needs to be changed," Medvedev told a meeting of linguists.
"When all the signals are sent from the Kremlin, it shows that the system is not viable, it needs tuning," he said.
Analysts are looking for clues as to how Presidential elections in March will play out, and apparent pre-election jockeying has fueled speculation of a rift between the two.
Medvedev's recent repeated criticism, albeit oblique, of his mentor has fueled talk of a divide between the two men, who have worked together closely for more than two decades and who have said that they agree on almost every issue.
Both leaders have hinted they may run in next year's presidential election and have said they will make the decision together on who will run.
Some observers see significant policy differences, others an attempt to create a veneer of competition and please as many groups as possible in both Russia and the West, where Putin is viewed warily because of friction during his presidency.
Medvedev, a former university law teacher, has styled himself a champion of democracy, promising to fight corruption and modernize the economy. Analysts say he has tried to distance himself from ex-KGB spy Putin, but his critics say he has failed to fulfill any of his promises.
A senior Kremlin official said last month that uncertainty over the country's political future is partly to blame for tens of billions of dollars in capital flight this year.