Ivanov (left) with President Putin at a Kremlin reception in June 2006 (epa)
THE NEXT PRESIDENT? RFE/RL's Russian Service asked several leading analysts to comment on President Vladimir Putin's promotion of Sergei Ivanov and what it might augur for the 2008 presidential election.
Political commentator and journalist Yuliya Latynina: I think the most important thing here is not the naming of the defense minister as first deputy prime minister so much as his removal as defense minister. Maybe I am mistaken, but I have the impression that Ivanov has sort of worn on Putin. Recently, all of his public appearances have been very loud and memorable. No matter what he said about [various hazing cases], it is likely people started wondering -- not only the public, but service personnel -- is this the person who is running the Defense Ministry? On the other hand, Putin does not abandon his friends for such small things as professional incompetence. Especially since professional incompetence is not a disqualification -- a successor, by definition, has to be professionally unqualified for his post.
Military journalist Aleksandr Golts: I think this is a sort of new chance for Ivanov, because it has finally become clear that one does not gain much popularity as defense minister. It is due in no small part to Ivanov that our army is in the position that it is in now, so it would be hard to think that this person could become popular under these conditions. So this strange decision was made.
"Novaya gazeta" political commentator Sergei Mulin: This completely fits in with the concept the president mentioned during his [October 2] press conference -- namely, that our country will have a free election with two candidates. Only he didn't mention they would be the Kremlin's two candidates. I think it doesn't much matter to the president which of these two candidates becomes his successor. What is important is what position he [Putin] will hold and how much he will be able to control things. Today marks the de facto official start of the election campaign for president of Russia.