Speculation about the identity of Russia’s new Prime Minister has been resolved today. Vladimir Putin’s choice of European Union envoy Mikhail Fradkov has suprised many analysts, who had thought that Putin would pick someone more recognisable. Fradkov has been a largely anonymous technocrat throughout his civil service career.
Putin explained why he had chosen Fradkov, saying that any Prime Minister must be…
“a highly professional person, organized, having strong work experience in varied branches of state activity”
One of the most common assumptions among analysts was that Putin would appoint a potential successor, such as current Foreign Minister Ivanov, as PM. By picking Fradkov, who is most definately not Presidental candidate material, he has passed up this opportunity.
There is, of course, no rule which says that the next Russian President must first be Prime Minister, but today’s decision does give some more weight to the argument that Putin is considering an attempt to extend his presidency into a third term. Unlike Yeltsin, who appointed five Prime Ministers, Putin made do with just the one, Mikhail Kasyanov, throughout his first Presidential term. To appoint a new Prime Minister in a couple of years time is not impossible, but would be more difficult given that Putin’s reputation is built on bringing predictability to Russia’s government.