Russian President Vladimir Putin recently endorsed a new proposal to reset the nation’s constitutional term-limit, sounding off alarm bells in the international community that he might be preparing to remain president for at least the next 16 years, if not for life.
According to The New York Times, the proposal passed through the lower house of Parliament almost immediately after Putin introduced the measure. All that remains for the proposal to become law is to be approved by Russia‘s Constitutional Court and via a nationwide referendum in April.
Though the Russian constitution currently states that the president can only govern for two terms — like in the United States — President Putin has already managed to find at least one loophole after running into the same problem back in 2008. At that point, Putin had technically hit the term limit — serving as president from 2000 – 2008.
To get around the issue, Putin decided to serve as prime minister of the country while allowing his protégé, Dmitry Medvedev, to assume the mantle of the presidency. However, despite the change of title, most Russia experts believed that Putin remained president in all but name.
After Medvedev finished his single term, Putin claimed that he was eligible to run for president once more — this time with a term that lasted six years instead of the previous four. Despite large protests, Putin handily won in 2012, with a repeat victory in 2018 that ensured his control until 2024.
The changes suggest that President Putin is not willing to step aside and play puppet-master again.
Though Putin had originally eyed more obscure constitutional changes in his search to remain in power, it appears that this simpler, more brazen solution was all that was needed as experts on Russian policy anticipate the proposal will soon be enshrined into law.
However, it has not been without critique.
“He’s usurping power and resetting term limits, but dumping the responsibility on the Constitutional Court,” claimed opposition politician Lyubov Sobol. “Does he think people are stupid?”
It has also been reported that opposition activists hope to stage a rally on March 21 to voice their disapproval of Putin’s latest action.
Though Putin claimed that he believed that Russia should have presidents change regularly one day, he defended his latest proposal by claiming that Russia was not yet able to handle any sort of instability due to various foreign and domestic threats.
“I’m sure the time will come when the highest presidential authority in Russia will not be, as they say, so personified — not so bound up in a single person,” Putin said in his argument for the new measure. “But that is how all of our past history came together and we cannot, of course, disregard this.”
Politicians supporting the measure have emphasized the “stability” that Putin would bring should he remain president for the foreseeable future.
Though the new law would technically only allow Putin two more terms — meaning he would remain in power until 2036 — many experts believe that it is just a smokescreen for an end goal of staying president for life.
Considering Putin has long considered the United States an adversary, his continued presence would no doubt be a thorn in the side of American foreign policy — and domestic policy as well. In fact, a Russian company headed by a close associate of Putin is going on trial next month on charges of interfering in the 2016 presidential election.