President Vladimir Putin said Monday that he would agree to become prime minister if Dmitry Medvedev is elected as his successor - but that he would not seek to make the premiership more powerful. Putin's statement virtually ensures that the 42-year-old Medvedev, seen as business-friendly and not hawkish, will be elected March 2. "If the citizens of Russia show trust in Dmitry Medvedev and elect him the new president, I would be ready to continue our joint work as prime minister, without changing the distribution of authority" between the positions, Putin told the congress of the dominant United Russia party. The prime minister is a significantly less powerful figure than the president in Russia. But by remaining in a prominent position, Putin could continue to exert his enormous influence and personal popularity to direct Russian affairs. He has previously said that a victory in parliamentary elections by United Russia would give him the "moral authority" to ensure that his policies are continued. The party won the December 2 vote with an overwhelming majority of seats. When Medvedev received Putin's endorsement last week, he quickly proposed that Putin become prime minister after the election. Putin had not publicly responded previously.