Vladimir Putin, Russia's President since 2000, completes his second and final term in May 2008. The current Constitution bars him from a third, yet he makes no bones about retaining power. The question he grapples with being "how to appear doing so in visibly legitimate democratic fashion, unlike his Communist predecessors - e.g. Stalin and Breshnev, who simply seized it?"
In doing so, he thwarts any global democracy lash-back. In fact, cleverly leveraging democracy rather than the traditional pure, unilateral power grab would be a new global model for despot-like power seekers.
Seeking to be seen as pursuing a democratic approach to indefinite power, and hiding behind a democracy veneer, Mr. Putin has but two choices:
1) Either legitimately changing the Constitution (by abolishing term limits), which is to late in this term to do so, that is by democracy protocols anyway – i.e. Referendum, or
2) Orchestrate/engineer an inside your own party (United Russia) takeover to nominate (i.e. unilaterally choose/designate) your candidate successor, one you can be assured will win and you can totally control - like a puppet.
Deciding on Choice 2, in what the Analyst coins "Vladimir's 3P's", i.e. "Putin's Puppet Plan", kicks off his effort to permanently remain in power once his formal term ends.
On Mr. Putin's handpicked (stepping stone) successor, one can readily appreciate from the attached article excerpt, the absolute dominance Putin will have over him, and why he is but a cog in Putin's personal long term power retention plan. The Dec. 11, 2007 NY Times reports "A day after President Vladimir V. Putin endorsed a loyal protégé, Dmitri A. Medvedev, as his successor, Mr. Medvedev went before the nation today and declared that he in turn wanted to name Mr. Putin as his Prime Minister...Mr. Medvedev is seen here as a relatively weak figure beholden to Mr. Putin.....Unlike Mr. Putin and many top officials in the Kremlin, Mr. Medvedev appears to have no background in the K.G.B., the F.S.B. or other state security agencies...."All Medvedev has is that he is a creature of Putin...Everything that Medvedev has is owed to Putin. There is no Medvedev without Putin."
With no political background, no connection to the judiciary, FSB (KGB successor) or military, Medvedev comes with absolutely no credibility to these organizations. Without their collective respect and support, a Russian President has no power. In fact, an individual without those connections would never even get elected. So assuming Mr. Medvedev does succeed and win the Presidency, it's solely because he has the key "connection to those other connections", the/his Chief Puppet Master - Vladimir Putin.
As for Mr. Putin's own positioning, he is a born and bred former KGB'er and therefore knows the reincarnate FSB inside out. He too clearly has the entrenched political/governmental/military relationship infrastructure and associated power connections. He would therefore win in a heartbeat if allowed to run for a third time.
In other words, Medvedev is merely the pawn or the vehicle to "legitimately" circumvent the Constitution, running akin to a non-credited novel writer as "ghost candidate" or rather "Putin proxy". He is Putin's chosen one to represent the dominant political/parliamentary party United Russia. That coupled most importantly with Putin's complete support, makes Medvedev's (and therefore Putin's) victory in the 2008 Presidential election a fait accompli.
The "Vladimir 3P 3 Step"
Consider the role of Puppet Master as Step 1 in Vladimir Putin's creative "3 Step" march toward permanent power. Step 2 coming upon Medvedev's stepping down mid term or probably even much earlier (the day after inauguration?) and allowing Putin to then legitimately bypass Constitutional term limits and rise to President for the remainder of Medvedev's term. At that point, the world can swiftly expect commencement of Step 3 - a Putin package of sweeping Constitutional reforms vis-à-vis Referendum/Plebiscite and/or other creative/derivative constitutionally legitimate approaches, including abolishing President term limits, ala Venezuela's recent Referendum attempt, of course leveraging appropriate lessons learned.
Mr. Chavez has upwards of 5 more potential attempts at successful Referendum. Noting of course his need for creative derivative and/or popular initiative approaches, as the Venezualen Constitution does not allow pursuing the "same amendment" change twice during the same term, which runs out in 2013. Mr. Putin would similarly then have upwards of 3 or 4 (derivative attempts) depending on when Medvedev predictably (not if, but when – Putin tells him too) steps down. Indeed one can be sure both leaders will share lessons learned on how to turn prior losses and/or coming opportunities into a future winning Referendum and/or other popular initiative.
The inevitability of Mr. Putin's success at achieving "President for Life" is therefore all but certain. Ironically too, achieving this de-facto, yet coveted czar and/or dictator like status through shrewd, clever and legal manipulation of the rules/laws. Indeed, who would ever have imagined the road to Putinian Dictatorship was engineered thru Democracy.
And in the end, isn't that Mr. Putin's real Presidential coup.