Putin sends his constitutional proposals to Parliament

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday submitted to Parliament a package of constitutional amendments widely seen as an attempt to secure his grip on power well after his current term ends in 2024.

Putin first presented the proposed changes in his state-of-the-nation address last Wednesday, arguing they are intended to bolster the role of Parliament and strengthen democracy.

Kremlin critics have argued that they are intended to allow his rule for life.

The Kremlin-controlled Lower House, the State Duma, received a draft bill on constitutional proposals from the Kremlin and quickly scheduled the first of three required readings for tomorrow.Putin, 67, has been in power for more than 20 years, longer than any other Russian or Soviet leader since Josef Stalin, who led from 1924 until his death in 1953.

Under the law now in force, Putin must step down as President when his current term ends.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and New Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin attend a Security Council meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo Residence in Moscow, Russia. PHOTO: AP

While proposing to give Parliament more say over Cabinet ministers’ appointment, Putin emphasised that the President should retain the power to dismiss the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers and remain in charge of the Russian military and law enforcement agencies. That makes it unlikely that Putin could opt for shifting into the Prime Minister’s seat as some have speculated.

The Kremlin bill also modifies the constitution to limit a President to two terms altogether, unlike the current version containing a limit of two consecutive terms. Putin served two Presidential terms in 2000-2008 and then shifted into the Prime Minister’s position to observe the term limit but effectively remained in charge while his associate Dmitry Medvedev served as a placeholder President in 2008-2012.

Medvedev obediently stepped down after to allow Putin reclaim the top job and move into premiership after amending the constitution to extend the President’s term from four years to six.

Immediately after proposing the constitutional changes, Putin last week fired Dmitry Medvedev, who had the job for eight years, and named Tax Chief Mikhail Mishustin to succeed him.

The Russian President is yet to appoint the new Cabinet.