- REUTERS/Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin
- The Russian government headed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is resigning as President Vladimir Putin proposes changes that could extend his power.
- In a speech Wednesday, Putin proposed changes to the Russian Constitution that could limit the power of the presidency – effectively weakening his successor – and create opportunities for him to keep his grip on power after his presidency.
- “It’s not clear what role he will play, what will his status be. The only thing which is clear is that he will keep his role as the No. 1 person,” Alexey Chesnakov, a political analyst who previously served as a Kremlin aide, told The Wall Street Journal.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday proposed constitutional changes that could extend his power after his presidency. Shortly after, the Russian government headed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev resigned, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.
In a televised speech on Wednesday, Putin proposed sweeping changes to the Russian Constitution that would weaken the powers of the presidency and expand those of Parliament.
Among other changes, he proposed imposing a two-term limit on future presidents and allowing Parliament instead of the president to choose the prime minister and Cabinet officials – moves that would limit the power of the next president.
Putin has been in power as either the president or the prime minister since 1999, but he is expected to step down in 2024. Jeffrey Mankoff, a Russia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Insider that the proposed changes to the constitution created pathways for Putin to continue to influence Russian political developments after leaving office.
He explained that the proposed amendments show “thinking about not only Putin’s future but also what the country looks like once Putin isn’t solely running the show, even if he’s still kind of the power behind the throne.”
As for Putin’s future, “it’s not clear what role he will play, what will his status be,” Alexey Chesnakov, a political analyst who previously served as a Kremlin aide, told The Wall Street Journal. “The only thing which is clear is that he will keep his role as the No. 1 person.”
“Wherever Putin ends up,” Mankoff said, “exactly what his title is will be somewhat less important.” The fragility of Russian institutions often allows powerful people like Putin to maintain more power than what’s provided by their title, as was the case when Putin served as Medvedev’s prime minister.
Following Putin’s address, Medvedev said on state TV that “after those amendments are adopted,” there would be “significant changes not only to a variety of constitution articles, but to the balance of power, namely to the executive, legislative and judicial branches of power.”
“In this context,” he continued, “it is evident that we, as the government of the Russian Federation, should provide our country’s president with an opportunity to take all the necessary decisions in these conditions. I believe it right for the government of the Russian Federation to step down in conformity with Article 117 of Russia’s Constitution.”
The Russian president thanked Medvedev for his service. “Not everything was done, but everything never works out in full,” Putin said.
The prime minister and his government’s resignation will allow Putin to select new senior officials as he works to reshape the Russian government. Medvedev is to become the new deputy head of Russia’s Security Council. Putin has instructed the resigning government to continue performing its duties until a new one can be appointed.