As expected, six months prior to Russia's 2008 presidential elections, Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov has resigned his position. Fradkov, a technocratic figure who was expected to keep the government's trains running on time, was never expected to succeed Vladimir Putin as president of the country, and it was widely expected that he would be asked to step down in order to allow a possible presidential successor to Putin to, in effect, be anointed.
...It's difficult to see [appointed Prime Minister Viktor] Zubkov as being the designated "heir" to become president. It is important to note that if one looks at the last years of the second term of the Yeltsin Administration, a series of prime ministers were appointed, in part to keep the political establishment off balance.
This also gives some "breathing room" if the overall succession issue has not been settled by having another technocratic prime minister in place for the next several months, while negotiations would continue over how power would be distributed. Remember, the lesson many in the Russian elite learned from the Orange Revolution of 2004 in Ukraine was that when the elite is divided and cannot reach consensus, the system becomes destabilized.
Gvosdev also has something to say about Prime Minister Abe's resignation in Japan. Check out his article here. And thanks to Laura Rozen for forwarding it along.