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News, January 2020
Amendments to the Russian Constitution Designed to Enable Putin to Stay in Power After his 2024 Term Limit, as PM or Head of State Council
January 18, 2020
Russian government resigns after President Putin’s state-of-the-nation address proposes changes to the constitution
RT, 15 Jan, 2020
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has announced that the entire government is resigning in a surprise statement released shortly after President Vladimir Putin delivered his annual state-of-the-nation address.
Accepting the resignation, Putin thanked the ministers for their hard work and asked them to function as a caretaker government until a new one can be formed.
Medvedev and Putin had met for a work meeting to discuss the state-of-the-nation address earlier on Wednesday, the Kremlin said. Medvedev explained that the cabinet is resigning in accordance with Article 117 of the Russian Constitution, which states that the government can offer its resignation to the president, who can either accept or reject it.
During his speech, Putin said he intended to create the position of deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, which would be offered to Medvedev.
Medvedev’s move to the new role will mean Russia will have a new prime minister when a new government is formed.
Putin also proposed multiple amendments to Russia’s constitution. His proposals would entail “substantial changes” to the constitution as well as to the “entire balance of power, the power of the executive, the power of the legislature, the power of the judiciary,” Medvedev explained.
“In this context, it is obvious that, as the government, we must provide the president with a capability to make all decisions,” which are required to implement the proposed plan, Medvedev said announcing the en-masse resignation.
Medvedev became prime minister in 2012, after serving four years as president. He currently heads the ruling United Russia party.
Under Putin’s plan, the State Duma – the lower house of parliament – will be granted the power to appoint the prime minister and the rest of the cabinet, as opposed to just approving their candidacies as is currently the case.
Another idea voiced by Putin is to make the consultation body, the State Council, a permanent fixture, with its status and role written into the constitution. The president praised the council’s effectiveness, stressing that its working groups ensure the most important problems for the people are thoroughly looked into.
‘Russia in Global Affairs’ Editor-in-Chief Fyodor Lukyanov told RT that the change will be a step towards the “diversification of power” at a time when the country is being “increasingly governed in a ‘manual control’ mode and fully fixated on the president.”
It is an attempt to transform a super-centralized personified system of power into a more balanced and diversified one… with a strong president but not as strong as today.
“The resignation symbolizes the current ‘reboot’ of the political system” ahead of the 2021 parliamentary and 2024 presidential elections, Dmitry Badovsky, head of the Moscow-based Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies, told RT.
The cabinet’s resignation is also “tied in with the constitutional amendment package” proposed by Putin on Wednesday.
A possible departure for the outgoing cabinet was hinted at by the Russian president a year ago, when he promised personnel changes dependent on how well the top officials handled “national-priority projects,” according to Badovsky.
The resignation was “obviously a joint decision” by Putin and the outgoing PM, but was likely made at the behest of the Russian President, political analyst Dmitry Babich told RT. The move is bound to strike a chord with the majority of Russians, he said, describing it as “a very popular albeit somewhat belated” decision.
Voters – who overwhelmingly propelled Putin into the nation’s highest office for the fourth time last year – have given the president a mandate to alter Russia’s political course, making it “more patriotic,” and the liberal-leaning government of Dmitry Medvedev simply did not fit. Medvedev is “a clear-cut liberal” whose cabinet was hellbent on integrating Russia into global economic structures, such as the World Trade Organization, even though many of these bodies have become increasingly hostile to Russia in recent years, Babich noted.
Though thanking Medvedev and his team for their hard work, Putin also said that not everything has been accomplished. The nationwide programs are aimed at raising living standards and bettering the wellbeing of Russians. They encompass many spheres, including the improvement of education, housing and healthcare services.
Will Putin Stay Or Will He Go?
The Bombshell Address and Shock
Medvedev's Resignation Offers Big Hint
The Moscow Times, January 15, 2020
News analysis By Evan Gershkovich
Real and proposed changes to the structure of the Russian government shine a light on Vladimir Putin and the country’s futures.
For over an hour, President Vladimir Putin’s annual state-of-the-nation speech on Wednesday sounded just like those that had come before it.
As in previous years, Putin proposed measures for encouraging Russians to have more children, tackling poverty levels, and stimulating economic growth.
And, not for the first time, Prime Minister Dmitry Medevev had trouble staying awake.
Soon, however, he would be jolted upright.
Near the end of the 80-minute address, Putin began outlining a raft of proposed changes to the country’s Constitution. Then, three hours after the conclusion of the speech, Medvedev sent additional shockwaves through Russia’s political elite with an announcement on live television that he and his entire government would be resigning.
With Putin in the midst of a second consecutive presidential term that will come to an end in 2024, speculation has been swirling over whether he will attempt to extend his stay in power and how, given that the current Constitution limits presidents to two consecutive terms.
That speculation has now reached fever pitch, with observers wondering whether the next prime minister will be Putin’s successor. Putin himself was named prime minister by then-president Boris Yeltsin in 1999 before taking his place the following year.
One of the options floated in Moscow in recent months was that Putin would propose to change the Constitution so that a president could serve for a third consecutive term.
But the Russian leader, who has been in power for the past two decades, appeared to negate that possibility on Wednesday.
“I don’t consider [the two consecutive term limit] a matter of principle, but I agree with it,” he said in the address.
However, that doesn’t mean Putin will leave power in 2024.
Outlining proposals that would strengthen parliament and other government bodies while reducing the powers of the presidency, Putin appeared to be keeping various doors open for what position he may take on after leaving the Kremlin, analysts said.
“He gave himself much more room to maneuver,” said political consultant Yevgeny Minchenko.
Notable among Putin’s proposals were that he wants the State Duma, the lower house, to have the power to confirm the candidacy of the prime minister and the prime minister’s cabinet.
“The president would be obliged to appoint [the confirmed picks],” Putin said. “He would not be allowed to reject candidates confirmed by parliament.”
“But for these constitutional changes to be made, Putin needs support. And Medvedev had become too toxic,” she (? Stanovaya) added, referring to the prime minister’s low trust ratings.
Medvedev himself noted that “the balance of power” will change following the amendments to the Constitution, the state-run TASS news agency quoted him as saying.
“In this context, it is obvious that we, as the government, should provide the president of our country with the ability to make all necessary decisions for this,” he said.
Later Wednesday evening, Putin put forward Mikhail Mishustin, the little-known head of Russia's Federal Tax Service, to be Russia's new prime minister. The State Duma said it would decide on whether to approve him as prime minister on Thursday.
“It seems highly likely that Mishustin is just a technocratic placeholder,” Stanovaya said.
As for what landing spot Putin may be eyeing for himself, Stanovaya predicted that he will choose the State Council.
The body, she said, has the opportunity to bring under it various institutions at all levels, “from governors, to the presidential administration, to ministers to siloviki” — officials with ties to law enforcement.
“He would have a lot of control while also freeing himself from day-to-day problems,” Stanovaya said.
“But of course,” she added, “right now we are just left to guess.”
For his part, political scientist Dmitry Oreshkin reckons that Putin is targeting a return to the role of prime minister, which he took on in a swap with Medvedev in 2008, the last time he had to sidestep the constitutionally mandated two-term limit.
Regardless, Oreshkin believes Putin is readying a successor to take his place while he remains in control from behind the scenes.
“It doesn’t matter what his last name is,” he said. “But he will be another Medvedev.”
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