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article imageMedvedev secures new mandate as Russian prime minister

By Ola CICHOWLAS (AFP)     May 8, 2018 in Politics

Dmitry Medvedev secured a fresh term as Russian prime minister on Tuesday, as the lower house of parliament voted overwhelmingly for President Vladimir Putin's long-term ally to retain his post.

"I am ready to do everything for the development of our country," Medvedev said ahead of the vote in the State Duma, which Putin also attended.

A total of 374 MPs backed his candidacy while 56 voted against.

The ruling United Russia party and the ultra-nationalist LDPR party backed Medvedev, while the Communist and Just Russia parties opposed him.

The 52-year-old served a term as president from 2008 to 2012 before standing aside to become prime minister while Putin returned to the Kremlin.

Putin praised Medvedev in a speech ahead of the vote, saying that the prime minister "hardly needs any special introduction" after leading the government for the past six years.

"All that has been accomplished in recent years creates a solid basis for moving forward," Putin said, adding that he worked "thoroughly, professionally and honestly" during a "difficult" period for Russia.

"Despite all these difficulties, the government managed not just to solve extraordinary, emergency tasks" but also develop plans aimed at the "mid-term and long-term," Putin said.

"I think it's extremely important to preserve continuity."

- 'There's no money' -

Medvedev in turn thanked Putin for his support and said his government would work towards fulfilling new national targets announced by Putin following his inauguration for a fourth Kremlin term this week.

"We are able to be victorious both in war and peaceful times," he told the Duma, a day before Russia celebrates World War II victory over the Nazis with a military parade on Red Square.

Despite having played a relatively marginal role in the post in recent years, Medvedev won popular notoriety with an ill-judged throwaway phrase to an elderly woman complaining about her low pension in 2016 that "there's no money, but you hang in there."

Last year, he was accused of massive corruption by opposition politician Alexei Navalny in a YouTube video that has been viewed more than 27 million times.

Navalny's supporters, many of them teenagers, responded to the claims that Medvedev controls a luxury property empire by holding large-scale opposition protests across Russia.

Medvedev served as president from 2008 to 2012 when Putin had served the maximum two consecutive terms permitted by the Russian constitution.

Putin then returned as president in 2012 while Medvedev became prime minister in a deal that the men said they had long agreed, disappointing those who had seen Medvedev as a more liberal figure and prompting mass street protests.

The pair first met in their native city of Saint Petersburg where they were colleagues in the mayor's office in the 1990s.

Putin, 65, is now set to serve until 2024 and is on course to become the longest-serving Russian leader since Joseph Stalin. He won March polls with more than 76 percent of the vote.

Medvedev had been expected to retain his post despite rumours regularly surfacing that he is on the way out.

"Dmitry Medvedev has held on," Vedomosti business daily headlined its front page on Tuesday, while saying that "Putin's new promises will mainly be carried out by an old government."

RBK daily called him a "premier for stability," quoting sources in the Kremlin and the government as saying that he is the only person whom Putin trusts.

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