How to Get a Second Term in 2012: Russian Edition (Originally published by Joshua Tucker on The Monkey Cage) I'm just back from the newly renamed Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies annual conference. While there, I had the pleasure of chairing a roundtable on current Russian politics that featured presentations from Timothy Colton, Henry Hale, Steven Fish, and Kathryn Stoner-Weiss. At the conclusion of the panel, the topic turned to the coming Russian presidential elections. What makes the 2012 presidential elections in Russia interesting is that there actually is quite a lot of uncertainty about who will be elected president that year, for a now rather imposing six year term. Bucking the general anti-incumbency trend in Eastern Europe, we know that the next president of Russia will either be the current Russian President Dmitry Medvedev or the previous Russian President and current Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. We just don't know which one it will be. We do, however, know, that the election itself will not be used to settle this question. Only one of these two men will be on the ballot, and he will win the election. The consensus on the panel was that most serious analysts believe it will be Putin. When I raised the point that we really don't have many good examples of sitting presidents who are not term limited simply giving up power because someone else wants it – and that Medvedev legally has the power to fire Putin as Prime Minister – the point was repeatedly made that although Medvedev seems like he does want to stay on as president, he doesn't seem to have done anything that implies he could take the necessary steps to actually outmaneuver Putin in a power struggle. So here's the question I want to throw out to readers. Say Medvedev was really planning to try to stay on as Russian president: what actions would we expect (or even could we observe) to know that this was the case. Let me throw out two suggestions, which are interesting because they kind of point to opposite empirical observations. The one "sign" that Medvedev was not in it for the long haul that was pointed out at the panel was that Medvedev does not seem to be replacing enough Putin people with Medvedev people (although he has removed quite a few old powerful governors). If he was serious, so goes the argument, he'd have put more of his people into place by now. But let's suppose Medvedev is quietly gathering dirt on Putin ( kompromat as the Russians call it) and plans to at some point use it to "suggest" to Putin that he not run for president in 2012. (Far fetched? Probably, but the man is rumored to be worth $40 billion, which suggests he has some source of income beyond his government salary…) If this were the case, then we would expect Medvedev to keep a low profile (in terms of competition with Putin), and thus not replacing lots of Putin appointees would probably be a good place to start. But the basic question remains: how would we know if Medvedev was planning to make a serious play for the 2012 presidency? I look forward to comments and responses.