So with the presidential elections looming, Putin needs [...] an official successor, a crown prince loyal to Putin himself. Inevitably this has to be someone ambitious, tough, but with no capability to succeed politically on his own merit. The man has to be lifted into the presidency by sheer power of Putin's endorsement.
Dare I say it... I was right?
Just the other day, Putin has fired one non-entity PM and installed another one. Master Lucas notes that this Zubkov fellow, while an old comrade of Putin's, does not seem to be part of the Petersburg spy clique. As Russian bloggers have pointed out, the man is 65 years old, and far less energetic than the other two probables, Ivanov (former Defense Minister who handled scandals of violence in Russia's conscript army with all the elegance and subtlety of Rick Santorum on antidepressants) and Medvedev.
One thing I was not aware of when I wrote the original article was that the Russian constitution does not limit a presidency to two terms in all - just two consecutive terms. It is entirely legal for Putin to run, and win, in 2012. In this case the candidacy of mr. Zubkov, an individual seemingly without serious political ambition, makes perfect sense; and so do suggestions that if he does win the elections, he will promptly abdicate under a good pretense so Putin can grab the seat again.
An interesting development is the old PM's stated reason for resigning. Fradkov said he wanted to give the president the freedom of staff decisions ahead of impending political events, and Putin accepted the resignation, agreeing that it is important for him to review the structure of power ahead of the elections. Notice anything odd?
Strip away the politic-speak that Fradkov, a career diplomat, cannot avoid if he wanted to, and you end up with something not often seen in politics, especially Russian politics: honesty. With no regard to appearances of democracy, Fradkov is saying he's going away so Putin can easily rearrange things in such a way as to make it easiest for him to get the result he needs from the parliamentary and presidential elections, and Putin thanks him for being so considerate as to not inconvenience the Prez.
They're not even trying any more.