Russia’s President Vladimir Putin engineered a surprise shakeup of Russia’s leadership on Wednesday. He proposed changes to the constitution. At first glance, the changes seem to weaken the leader’s power. But a closer look casts doubt on that. Instead, the proposal could reveal Putin’s plans to carve out a new position of power for himself. If so, the changes could keep him in control of Russia well past the end of his term in 2024.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev resigned his post after Putin announced the proposed constitutional amendments.
The news sent shock waves through Russia’s political elites. They were left pondering what Putin’s intentions were.
Russia’s governmental structure consists of a president, a prime minister, and a parliament. The president holds the most power, but the president is also held to term limits. Putin served two terms as president from 2000-2008. But rather than step away from leadership when his term was up, he moved temporarily into the role of prime minister. His long-time ally Dmitry Medvedev appointed him to that position. Medvedev had been elected president following Putin, where he served from 2008 to 2012. The four-year break allowed Putin to fill the presidency a second time, again for two terms. But as president the second time, Putin changed the rules. He extended the presidential term from four to six years. That means he will remain Russia’s most powerful leader until 2024, when he must leave the office.
Political analysts suspect that Putin is planning ahead with the new proposal. His constitutional reforms move power away from the presidency to give more authority and control to the prime minister. These analysts believe Putin intends to seek that newly modified position when he is required to wrap up his final term as president.
The 67-year-old former KGB operative has led Russia for more than 20 years. He often keeps his intentions secret until the last moment. Alexei Navalny is a prominent leader for Russians who oppose Putin’s continued control. He believes Putin is setting the chess pieces in place for a power grab.
“The only goal of Putin and his regime is to stay in charge for life,” Navalny says.
After President Prime Minister Medvedev gave his resignation. Putin tapped Tax Service chief Mikhail Mishustin to fill that role for the rest of the term. Mishustin has served as an official in the Tax Service for nearly two decades but has never exhibited political ambitions.
(Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting on drafting constitutional changes that could keep him in power well past the end of his term in 2024. Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)