MOSCOW (AP) — Vladimir Putin said Saturday he'll run for Russia's presidency in 2012, almost certainly ensuring he'll retake the office he previously held and likely foreshadowing years more of a strongman rule that many in the West have called a retreat from democracy. If Putin wins two presidential terms in a row, he will have been atop the Russian hierarchy for almost a quarter-century.
In nominating Putin on Saturday, his United Russia party also approved his proposal that President Dmitry Medvedev take over Putin's current role as prime minister. Putin took over the premiership after serving as president from 2000-2008, bowing to term limits. But he was always the more powerful figure, with Medvedev viewed as a caretaker president.
During his presidency, Putin ruled Russia with a steely command, bringing about a system known as "managed democracy" that saw opposition politicians all but eliminated from the national eye. His personal popularity aided his maneuvering. Many Russians view Putin as the strong, decisive figure needed by a sprawling country troubled by corruption, an Islamist insurgency and massive economic inequality.
Putin's nomination at a congress of the United Russia party end months of intense speculation as to whether he would seek to return to the Kremlin or whether he would allow the more mild-mannered and reform-leaning Medvedev to seek another term in next year's election. The presidential election, to be held March 4, is preceded by national parliamentary elections on Dec. 4, in which United Russia will seek to retain its dominance; the party has 312 of the 450 seats in the current parliament.