Putin party to name presidential candidate December 17

A018022613.jpgMOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party will name its candidate for next year’s presidential election at a congress on December 17, party leader Boris Gryzlov said on Friday.

“One of the first questions at the congress will be about the candidate in the presidential election and it will be considered on December 17,” Gryzlov told a news conference, without giving any clues on who will be nominated.

Russia’s constitution bars Putin, 55, from running for a third consecutive term and he has said he will step down after his replacement is elected. He has also said he is likely to endorse one of his team to replace him.

The person United Russia picks to run as its candidate in a March 2 presidential election will almost certainly carry Putin’s seal of approval.

But analysts say the Kremlin could still put forward a second candidate after the United Russia congress, allowing Putin to postpone throwing his weight behind a chosen successor for as long as possible.

Gryzlov also said his party was recommending that he keep his posts as United Russia leader in parliament and speaker of the lower house.

Some analysts had speculated Putin could become speaker of parliament when he leaves the presidency and that Gryzlov would be moved aside to create a vacancy for him.

United Russia, with Putin running as No. 1 on its slate of candidates, won an overwhelming victory in last weekend’s parliamentary election.

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