MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Dmitry Medvedev’s lackluster state of the nation speech on Tuesday increases the odds that Russia’s paramount leader Vladimir Putin will return to the Kremlin in the 2012 presidential election.
Medvedev loaded his 72-minute speech with generalities about child support, demographics and ecology as Prime Minister Putin sat glumly before him in the front row of ornate St George Hall in the Grand Kremlin Palace.
In a speech interspersed with polite applause from Russia’s assembled elite, Medvedev steered clear of any mention of the 2012 presidential election, but indicated that few political reforms were expected before next year’s parliamentary election.
“I did not feel the fervor and ambition of a person who is going for a second term,” said Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a Russian academic who studies the Russian elite. “This is not the start of something new but the conclusion.”
“There were general, long-term, abstract aims but all the concrete things have to be accomplished by the end of 2011. So I do not have the feeling that he will be the next president,” she said.
So who will be president?
“Who? Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin,” she said.
Putin, 58, has said he will decide with Medvedev on whether to run for president closer to the 2012 election and diplomats in Moscow say a decision could be announced after the December 2011 parliamentary election.
Putin is the dominant member of a so called “ruling tandem” with Medvedev, and leaked U.S. diplomatic cables show senior diplomats consider Putin to be the “alpha-dog” ruler of Russia while Medvedev plays “Robin to Putin’s Batman.
Since being sworn in as president in May 2008, Medvedev has called for reforming Russia and a clamp down on corruption, though he admits his record of success has been patchy.
In a sign of exasperation with endemic corruption, Medvedev warned that those giving and taking bribes could face fines of up to one hundred times the size of the bribe, though he gave few details on how the new punishments could be implemented.
He spent a third of his speech -- which is traditionally used to set out goals for the coming year -- discussing policies on children’s welfare and promising to continue social support for pensioners and families with more than two children.
“There were precious few moments of anything concrete,” said Maria Lipman, an analyst as the Carnegie Moscow Center. “It looks to me as though Putin will come back in 2012 and Medvedev’s speech has not changed the impression I have.”
“This speech maintains the impression that Putin is the leader of deeds and Medvedev is the leader of plans,” she said.
Additional reporting by Thomas Grove and Steve Gutterman; editing by Jon Boyle
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