Putin to stay in office until 2036


Russian President Vladimir Putin, on Tuesday, opened the door to constitutional changes that would allow him to remain in power until 2036, but said he favoured term limits once the country became politically “mature”.
Putin, who in January unveiled a major shake-up of Russian politics and a constitutional overhaul, is required by the constitution to step down in 2024 when his second sequential and fourth presidential term ends.
However, while addressing the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, he gave his qualified blessing to a proposed change to the constitution that would formally reset his presidential term tally to zero.
“The proposal to remove restrictions for any person, including the incumbent president … In principle, this option would be possible.
“But on one condition – if the constitutional court gives an official ruling that such an amendment would not contradict the principles and main provisions of the constitution,” Putin said.
He said U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt serving four terms because of the upheaval his country was going through at the time was an example of why presidential term limits were sometimes superfluous.
“In conditions when a country is experiencing such shocks and difficulties, of course … stability is perhaps more important and must be a priority,” he said.
He added that Russia was still recovering from the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
If, as Putin’s critic’s suspect, the constitutional court gives its blessing to the amendment and it is backed in a nationwide vote in April, Putin could serve another two back-to-back six year terms.
Were he to do that, and his health and electoral fortunes allowed, he could stay in office until 2036 at which point he would be 83.
Kremlin critic and opposition politician Alexei Navalny said he believed Putin was now set to become president for life, while Navalny’s ally, Ivan Zhdanov, decried the move as tantamount to a constitutional coup.
Putin, 67, now had more room to manoeuvre politically, said Tatiana Stanovaya, a non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center.
His stance handed him the option to run again in 2024 should he choose to do so and removed political challenges raised by what had been seen as his last term in the Kremlin, she added.
“The successor issue disappears. The issue of Putin as a lame duck disappears,” said Stanovaya.
Opposition activists said they planned to protest against what some called a rewriting of the constitution in the interests of the ruling elite.
One group said it had applied for permission to stage a demonstration on March 21.
A former KGB officer, Putin, who is serving his fourth presidential term and has also served as prime minister, has dominated the Russian political landscape for two decades.
Putin has not spelled out what his plans for the future are, but he has said he does not favour the Soviet-era practice of having leaders for life who die in office.
Putin appeared before parliament on Tuesday after Valentina Tereshkova, a lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party and the first woman in space, told parliament she was proposing to amend the constitution in a way that would reset his presidential term count to zero.
Explaining the surprise move, Tereshkova said voters had told lawmakers in recent meetings that they wanted Putin to “stay nearby”, whatever constitutional changes occurred.
“What if suddenly something goes wrong?” asked Tereshkova. “He (Putin) will be able to support, help and have our backs.”
Her proposal came as parliament was examining and preparing to vote on Putin’s constitutional shake-up in the second of three readings, something it later did, approving it and Tereshkova’s amendment.
Russia’s lower House of Parliament on Tuesday voted in favour of amending the constitution to enable Putin to run for another term.
The draft amendment applies to the “current president” to enable him to run for election “without taking into account the number of terms during which he has held this position,” according to an excerpt reported by state media.
It was the second of three voting sessions by the lower house, before the bill progresses to the upper house.
The draft legislation was part of a raft of reforms of the country’s constitution initially proposed by Putin during his state of the nation speech two months ago.
Some of the changes would boost the authority of the government’s legislative branch, currently dominated by the political party most closely associated with Putin, United Russia.
The proposed legislation would also enshrine a ban on gay marriage in Russia’s constitution, as well as an attestation of faith in God, a marked departure from the atheist doctrine of the Soviet Union.
Putin said in a speech to the lower house of parliament that he would approve an amendment to enable him to run for re-election, and adding that it would need to be approved by Russia’s Constitutional Court.
The 67-year-old has been in power as president or prime minister for two decades.
He is the longest serving Russian or Soviet leader since Joseph Stalin.
Putin said in the speech that he did not support a proposal to eliminate the limit on the number of presidential terms.
The constitution in its current form allows a president to serve for two consecutive terms, meaning that Putin would have to leave the presidency in four years.
Putin served two four-year terms as president from 2000 to 2008.
After that the constitution was amended to provide six-year terms, and Putin returned the presidency in 2012 and was re-elected in 2018.
Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, a well-known lawmaker, Valentina Tereshkova, proposed eliminating the limit on the number of presidential terms.
The motion was promptly supported by United Russia.
“I propose either removing the limit on presidential terms” or making it so that Putin or any other citizen could run for election as head of state, said Tereshkova, a former cosmonaut who in the early 1960s became the first woman in space.


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