Putin, who served as president from 2000-2008, was barred by the constitution from serving a third term. His handpicked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, became president in May 2008, and a day after taking office appointed Putin prime minister.
Last month the two men agreed to swap jobs again. Parliamentary elections to be held next week are expected to hand United Russia – with Medvedev leading the list – another majority, albeit a smaller one than it won last time. Putin will then stand as the party’s candidate in the March 4 presidential election, and after his all-but-assured victory he will name Medvedev prime minister.
After accepting the nomination in a unanimous vote at a party congress in Moscow, Putin told the rowdy gathering that any attempt by unnamed foreign countries to influence the election process would be futile.
RIA Novosti quoted him as saying that representatives of “some foreign states” were funding Russian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to “influence the course of the election campaign in our country.”
“It would be better if they used this money to pay off their national debt and stop conducting an ineffective and costly foreign policy,” he said.
During his terms as president, Putin frequently attacked NGOs, which he accused of being puppets of Western powers, suspected of helping to foment popular revolutions like those that toppled pro-Moscow regimes in Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004.
In 2006 he signed a law cracking down on the non-profit groups, threatening to suspend those accused of “threaten[ing] Russia’s sovereignty or independence.”
In a new survey by the independent Russian pollster Levada Center, 53 percent of respondents said they would vote for United Russia, well ahead of the second-placed Communist Party at 20 percent. The ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party stood at 12 percent and the leftist Just Russia at nine percent.