At last there is clarity. The fog has lifted and we now know who will be the next Russian president. In 2012, Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev will swap roles and Putin will return to his Kremlin office for a six-year term (or two).
After being nominated by Putin to head the United Russia party (and thus become the next prime minister), Medvedev in turn nominated his mentor to be the party's presidential candidate. The announcement of the high-level rokirovochka ("castling") was greeted by cheers from the thousands of delegates to the party's grand congress in September.
It was not long before the cynical snickering began, however, as artists churned out cartoons lampooning the decision, including one showing how Putin and his government will age in the coming 12 years. By then, the country's "alpha dog" would be 71. Talking heads also speculated on other vital issues: Would government offices bookend Medvedev with an older version of Putin in their portrait galleries? Would the new president continue flexing his muscles on state TV – flying fighter jets, climbing into tanks, and "deep" sea diving for ancient Greek urns in murky Black Sea waters? Or would Putin embark on his bonus six-year term with a new-found sense of responsibility?
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