Even as the president of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev was seen as the second-in-command to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, his mentor. And now that Putin has won his third term as president during a controversial election Sunday, Medvedev's political future is uncertain.
In Russia, the current focus is justifiably on Putin. The sitting prime minister has assured himself at least six more years atop the government after an election season that included assassination plots, coalition party coups, fraud charges and protests against his return to the top job.
Meanwhile, Medvedev will use his remaining months in power to focus on domestic matters, leaving big-picture issues -- such as the bloody uprising in Syria and Iran's nuclear program -- to his successor.
Last Wednesday, Medvedev signed into law a bill that allows for the forced chemical castration of repeat pedophiles and sexual predators. On Monday, he ordered a review of the infamous case against Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the oil tycoon who was convicted of tax evasion after he challenged then-president Putin politically in 2003.
This seems to be purely symbolic -- Medvedev is trying to do something he will be remembered for while he's still president, Olga Khryshtanovskaya, a senior member of the ruling United Russia party, told Bloomberg News. Any legal review won't actually be decided until Putin is back in the Kremlin, and freeing Khodorkovsky isn't something he supports.
Perhaps these moves are meant to prepare him for the prime minister job, which Medvedev is expected to take under President Putin. Last September, Putin announced that the two men would switch roles, dashing the prospect of a second term for the incumbent.
Despite rumors that Putin and Medvedev are growing apart and may no longer trust one another, Putin confirmed Friday that Medvedev is his choice to be prime minister in Putin's forthcoming government.
My offer to him and our agreement on such power-sharing -- it's not only about [our] willingness to stay in power, but also to continue the reforms that have been launched, Putin said during a meeting with international newspaper editors in Moscow.
According to both leaders, the swap was agreed to four years ago, around the time Medvedev would have been taking office, fueling talk that the man groomed by Putin since the late 1990s was a placeholder for -- or worse, a puppet of -- Putin between his first two (and third and perhaps fourth) terms as president.
Still, regardless of the pact and Medvedev's public support for Putin, the former's seat warmer image, according to Britain's Guardian newspaper, is hurting his chances at becoming Putin's official No. 2, and costing him allies within thier party, United Russia.
That he will become prime minister is something that is talked about less and less, Alexei Mukhin, head of the Political Information Center, a Russian think tank, told the Guardian. Even members of his circle have begun to express doubts.