Russian Prime Minister Resigns as Putin Hints at Constitutional Reforms

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev walk prior to a cabinet meeting in Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev walk prior to a cabinet meeting in Moscow, Russia, Jan. 15, 2020.

MOSCOW – Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has submitted his cabinet’s resignation, shortly after President Vladimir Putin proposed a series of constitutional amendments aimed at strengthening the parliament at the expense of the presidency.

Putin’s proposal came during his his annual address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow on Wednesday — a yearly “state of the nation” style speech that appeared to lay the groundwork to preserve Putin’s influence over the country when his current and final presidential term ends in 2024.

Putin later nominated Tax Service Chief Mikhail Mishustin as the country’s new prime minister, according to Russian news agencies.

Approval of the prime minister and other key cabinet posts, suggested Putin in his speech, should soon lie with Russia’s Duma legislative body. Putin also proposed that the State Council, currently an advisory group to the president, be constitutionally enshrined with formal authority.

“These are very serious changes to the political system,” said Putin in outlining the proposals.

Medvedev issued a statement within hours of the speech.“

In this context, it’s obvious that we, as the government of the Russian Federation, should give the president of our country the possibility to take all necessary decisions under these conditions,” he said.

A Russia beyond Putin

The constitutional and government shakeup are the latest chapter in frenzied speculation over Putin’s future when his current and final term ends in 2024.

Constitutional amendments to ban term limits and a possible union with neighboring Belarus are among theories that have been widely debated as semi-legal solutions to keep Putin in power.

Yet, with Wednesday’s speech suggesting the neutering of the presidency, Putin appeared to hint at wielding power through new constitutional architecture — perhaps as a newly empowered prime minister or member of an independent security council.“

Everyone was guessing: what would this thieving regime do to stay in power past 2024,” wrote the political satire account, Мысли Перзидент, or “Thoughts of the Prezident. “Well here we go.”

Indeed, a separate, proposed reform by Putin — that anyone running for president must live in Russia for at least 25 years — suggested the Russian leader had an eye on potential competitors for the Kremlin seat in 2024.

Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a one-time oligarch and rival of Putin’s who currently lives in exile, had said he was open to running for the post.

The amendment — once passed — would seemingly bar him from the election.

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