Tuesday evening, the United Russia congress will finalize its ballot list and there is little doubt Putin will top it. The next step is leading United Russia in the Duma, then the office of prime minister. Few have ever doubted that the fit, sporty, and first and foremost, effective Putin would retire after his two terms in office as president of the Russian Federation. There has been much speculation on finding legal ways of extending his presidential term. Some of them alien to democratic principles. But there have been equally as many voices advocating a democratic way of keeping Putin in control of Russia. Putin as prime minister is not a new proposal. Many Russian commentators have been speculating on that idea. Today, President Putin himself made it clear that he is not yet willing to leave Russia's future to others. And that he is, and will be, for the foreseeable future very much in control.
Under this scenario, given his popularity among Russians and his deft skills as a powerbroker between rivaling Kremlin clans -- Putin could remain in power from behind the scenes while his weak presidential successor, or a close associate, would play the role of ceremonial president. As commentator Alexei Pushkov told the Russia Today TV channel, "If he becomes Prime Minister, we'll have Putin for the next four years. And in that case who is President will be a secondary question."