Putin nominated as presidential candidate
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been nominated by his party to run for president next March.
Sunday's nomination is considered merely a formality on the part of United Russia, which has dominated politics under Putin's leadership for more than a decade. Putin has already served two terms as president, from 2000 to 2008. He has been prime minister since then.
He arrived at the party's congress to huge cheers and flag-waving and promised Russians stability, a word he repeated throughout his speech.
In countering criticism that he has tightened his control at the expense of democracy, Putin insisted that Russia needs a "stable political system" to guarantee "stable development" for decades to come.
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While he may be popular among party faithful, who say only Putin can continue to bring stablity to Russia, opposition politicians such as Sergei Mitrokhin see his return to the Kremlin as a backward step.
"It's very dangerous for the country because the ruling elite is not interested in real changes and reforms," the Yabloko party leader said. "The country is immersing into stagnation and crisis."
Russians will vote next weekend to install 450 deputies in the Duma, or parliament.
United Russia currently has more than 300 representatives, but its popularity is waning among a population tired of corruption and cronyism.
Putin's decision to swap jobs with President Dmitry Medvedev after the presidential vote next year, presented as a done deal at the party congress in September, also has soured the public mood.
Putin usually enjoys strong support from the people, but in a rare sign of dissatisfaction last weekend, the prime minister was booed by fans at a boxing match as he addressed the crowd.
While his office has tried to play down the incident, saying the crowd was booing the defeated American boxer, Putin has curtailed his public appearances. He pulled out of delivering a major anti-drug speech last week and delayed his annual call-in television show until after the parliamentary elections.
With files from The Associated Press