MOSCOW - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's ruling United Russia party begins a two-day congress on Friday that will be scrutinized for clues to who will run for president next March: Putin or his protege, President Dmitry Medvedev.
United Russia is due to set out its strategies and select candidates for the Dec. 4 parliamentary election, in which it may struggle to maintain its two-thirds majority in the State Duma, Russia's lower house. That vote will in turn set the stage for the presidential election. Some political analysts think Putin will see how United Russia performs in December before announcing who will run for the top office.Putin, 58, who served as president for the maximum two straight terms from 2000-2008, then steered Medvedev into the Kremlin, is free to run again, and has said he may do so.
Medvedev, 46, has also said he may seek re-election but has indicated they will not run against one another. Supporters have urged him to announce his candidacy, but some already see him as a lame duck eclipsed by an increasingly active and dominant Putin.