Russia's ruling tandem of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is set to switch roles next year, with Mr. Putin returning to presidency and Mr. Medvedev taking over the government.

Mr. Medvedev asked the ruling United Russia party on Saturday to support Mr. Putin's run in next year's presidential election, while Mr. Putin backed Mr. Medvedev to head the next government.

Both said it was their joint decision agreed upon long ago but kept back for tactical reasons.

Mr. Putin's return to the Kremlin is practically guaranteed given his consistently high popularity. He has played dominant role in Russia's politics even after he relinquished presidency in 2008 under the Russian Constitution upon serving two straight terms and promoted Mr. Medvedev as his replacement. Mr. Medvedev has stayed in Mr. Putin's shadow throughout his presidency and his demotion to Prime Minister will reflect the balance of power in the Kremlin duo.

The presidential term in Russia has been extended from four to six years since last elections, which means Mr. Putin may remain at the helm till 2024.

Addressing a congress of United Russia on Saturday Mr. Putin first proposed that Mr. Medvedev head the United Russia federal party list in December's parliamentary elections. Mr. Medvedev, who spoke next, agreed to lead the party to victory in the coming election and to “continue the country's modernisation” and work in a “radically overhauled government”. He in turn proposed nominating Mr. Putin for President in the March presidential election.

“I think it is right that the party congress support the candidacy of the head of government, Vladimir Putin, for the country's President,” Mr. Medvedev said to a long standing ovation from congress delegates. Taking the floor again Mr. Putin voiced the confidence that after the parliamentary election Mr. Medvedev will “form a youthful, energetic team and will head the government.”

Mr. Putin then set forth an ambitious programme of economic growth, promising that in the next few years Russia will place among the world's leading economies and average wages and salaries will rise 50 per cent to $1,000 by 2014.

In a distinct shift from Mr. Medvedev's emphasis on reforming Russia's political system and promoting credible multiparty democracy, Mr. Putin in his speech stressed the need for “political stability” as a precondition for the country's steady growth.

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