Shocker: Putin wins Prime Minister slot

Just when we thought Vladimir Putin would enjoy his retirement from the presidency — oh, who are we kidding? Putin made official his plan to remain in control of Russia with a nearly 8-1 victory in the Duma for the prime minister slot. From this perch, he can keep his eye on his handpicked puppet successor, Dmitry Medvedev, and continue his plotting to rebuild the Russian empire:

Loyal lawmakers confirmed Vladimir Putin as prime minister Thursday, capping a carefully engineered recast of Russia’s leadership a day after he handed the presidency to his protege Dmitry Medvedev.

The State Duma approved Putin in an overwhelming 392-56 vote after Medvedev told lawmakers that Putin had restored the world’s respect for Russia and improved the lives of its citizens in eight years as president.

Medvedev said he would sign a decree making Putin prime minister later in the day.

Putin’s unprecedented move from the Kremlin to the No. 2 post will keep him politically prominent for the foreseeable future and could serve as a springboard back to the presidency. It has Russians wondering who will really hold the country’s reins.

Russians are the only ones wondering, if that’s the case. Putin, the former KGB chief and the author of a new round of authoritarianism in Russia, had no intention of giving up any control over the nation. Medvedev himself nominated Putin for the slot, following an agreement which led to Putin’s endorsement for Medvedev’s election as president.

Still, there is no doubt that Putin remains a popular figure, and if Putin had managed to amend the constitution to allow a third term, he likely would have won it in a fair election. Whether or not Putin actually allowed fair elections in the last poll remains in dispute. His United Russia party won more than two-thirds of the seats in the Duma at the same time Medvedev won the presidency, but political opponents wound up jailed and harassed by Russian police. Garry Kasparov, the former grand master of chess who led the opposition, traveled the world trying to shine a light on Putin’s political repression.

Can Putin adjust to life as a puppeteer after running the country directly for the last decade? We’ll see, but the spymaster certainly knows how to run an asset. Medvedev will find that out shortly, if he hasn’t already.