Russia has undergone a political shake-up ahead of presidential elections in March. President Vladimir Putin has accepted the resignation of his prime minister, Mikhail Fradkov, and nominated a relative unknown as replacement. Viktor Zubkov is the head of the Federal Financial Monitoring Service, a financial market watchdog.
Analysts had been expecting Putin to nominate someone who would go on to be a leading presidential candidate, but it is unclear if Zubkov is Putin’s preferred choice of successor. The future of Sergei Ivanov, a first deputy prime minister and close friend of Putin, is also unclear. He has been widely tipped as a favourite for the presidential race. Observers say the resignation of Fradkov was expected in the lead-up to elections, as part of political manoeuvring. However, they say it was unexpected that Russians would be kept guessing on who Putin would like to see in the Kremlin.
After accepting Fradkov’s resignation the president left for a planned trip to the Volga region and left it up to the parliamentary speaker to confirm Zubkov’s nomination. Some analysts say Putin simply wants to keep voters guessing about his likely successor to avoid the risk of becoming a lame duck before he leaves power. The lower house of parliament is due to debate the nomination for prime minister on Friday.