Russian President Vladimir Putin may remain in power for another 16 years — he agreed to “set his presidential terms to zero” if the Constitutional Court considers such an idea not contrary to the Constitution. But — "incidentally" — they were about to change it anyway, a vote on this issue should be held on April 22. Hromadske looked into why it’s such a burning issue and what is happening with the top authorities in Russia.
The 2024 Problem
The next presidential election in Russia should be held in 2024 which is when Putin’s fourth presidential term expires. Under the Constitution, one person cannot hold the post of head of state for more than two consecutive terms. Vladimir Putin has led Russia since 2000 for two consecutive terms of four years — until 2008. Then he swapped places with Dmitry Medvedev, who was the prime minister at the time. Putin became president again in 2012. Before these elections, the term of office was increased to six years.
Then Putin was re-elected in 2018 — this became his second consecutive presidential term. It ends in 2024, and in order to remain in power, it was crucial to come up with something.
In addition, the next elections to the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, should be held in 2021, and the ratings of the ruling United Russia party are not high and it does not enjoy confidence among the population. Preserving the majority in such conditions would be extremely difficult; a more sophisticated restructuring of the entire political system is necessary.
Many political scientists are inclined to believe that the Kremlin’s Plan A was unification with Belarus. However, Alexander Lukashenko turned out to be not very accommodating, and a closer union did not work out — two rounds of negotiations in December and February did not lead to anything.
This is how Plan B came about — amending the Constitution. The need for its reform was announced by President Putin himself during a message to the Federal Assembly.
But the basic law is not so easy to change — its key provisions are recorded in the first chapters, which cannot be submitted to a popular referendum. Then it was decided not to change anything radically, but to add provisions on God, the priority of children and the union of men and women, and hold a decorative nationwide vote which is not stipulated by law. In order to legitimize it, the Central Election Commission has to adopt a voting procedure. It has not yet been approved, but its main provisions are already known.
Voting will take place on April 22, the day of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Lenin. However, it will be possible to vote ahead of schedule, three days before. All restrictions for voting at home are also removed. In addition, the idea of organizing polling stations at enterprises is being discussed — that is, all conditions have been created to increase turnout.
But controlling such a vote will be practically impossible, public observers of the all-Russian movement "Golos" (‘Voice’) say. Only representatives of public chambers of the regions, which are incompetent and will also perform only a decorative function, can send their representatives to the stations.
On top of that, sources claim that Putin plans to sign the law on amendments to the Constitution on March 18, the day of “Crimea’s accession to the Russian Federation”.
The State Duma considered this document in the second reading on March 10. And there an idea arose — to reset Putin’s presidential terms to zero. It was voiced by a deputy from United Russia and the world's first female cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova. The head of the party in power Vyacheslav Volodin replied that this should be discussed with Vladimir Putin himself — and within a couple of hours, the head of state arrived at the State Duma building.
What Putin Said
Putin spoke on the podium of the lower house of the Russian parliament, reading from a piece of paper, which removed the illusions of impromptu. He said that early elections to the State Duma should not be held (the idea was made by the head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Vladimir Zhirinovsky), it is impossible to remove the restriction on the number of presidential terms from the Constitution, but it is quite possible to reset them for him personally. But for this to go ahead, this change must be approved by the Constitutional Court.
/By Nataliya Tikhonova
Translated by Hromadske International