Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin confirmed over the weekend that they plan to swap jobs next year, just as they did in 2008 when the constitution barred Putin from serving a third consecutive term as president. Putin, who led Russia from 2000 to 2008 and has continued to wield considerable power as prime minister, is expected to easily win another presidential term. If he does, and serves two six-year terms (as allowed by a revised constitution), he could rule until 2024, marking a quarter century as the Kremlin's strong-armed leader. Is this a sign that Russia is drifting away from democracy and toward its authoritarian past?

Yes. This is a big step backward: Everybody knew Medvedev was only keeping the president's chair warm for Putin, says Britain's Guardian in an editorial. But Putin can only pull this off because he and his party, United Russia, have managed to make sure the country never developed "a genuine opposition or a free media." And thanks to constitutional changes Medvedev pushed through, Putin will get terms of six years rather than four, "all of which confirms a country slipping from democracy back toward autocracy."
"Putin's presidential ambitions signal a return to autocracy"

Relax. The people want Putin back: Russia is facing tough times, says Russia's RT TV. "Vladimir Putin, known as a strongman, may be a good fit for Russia's ambitions and needs." Many Russians, from voters to diplomats, are all for his "presidential comeback," because they think he is the one leader with the "might to confront the U.S. neocon politics" and boost the country's role as a player on the world stage.
"Putin perspective: Strong leader wanted"

Still, this is not the democracy Russians expected: Putin and Medvedev are "a tandem," Ivan Chaikan, a retired Soviet government official, tells The New York Times. Regardless of who holds which job, Putin is the one calling the shots. This is just another sign that "the hopes in the '90s for real democracy didn't come to fruition." No wonder young Russians no longer "care about democracy and good government. Everything today is about money and getting rich."
"Russians see shift in power as business as usual"