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Putin sends proposed constitutional changes to Parliament

Meeting with permanent members of the Security Council. (Official Internet Resources of the President of Russia/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has submitted a package of proposed constitutional amendments to parliament, after announcing last week a surprise overhaul of the country’s political system.

Putin had suggested numerous revisions to the constitution during his state-of-the-nation address on January 15, prompting speculation that the shakeup could help keep the 67-year-old former KGB officer in power beyond the end of his fourth presidential term in 2024.

The proposed amendments include giving parliament the power to name the prime minister and limit the president to only two terms in total — instead of two successive terms, according to the bill posted on the website of the Kremlin-controlled lower house, the State Duma, on January 20.

It also proposes transferring some powers from the presidency to state bodies such as the State Council, which would be transformed from an advisory body to an organ that would shape domestic and foreign policy, as well as social and economic development, according to the amendments.

The sweeping reform would also give the constitution a clear priority over international law.

The Duma’s Legislative Committee is expected to discuss the package on January 21, and the chamber is to decide the next day when to debate the amendments, according to speaker Vyacheslav Volodin.

A working group has been formed by Putin to study the proposed changes, and Putin has promised a popular vote on the amendments.

Putin’s speech was followed by the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who was replaced the next day by Mikhail Mishustin, the little-known head of Russia’s tax service.

On January 20, the Kremlin announced that Russia’s prosecutor-general, Yury Chaika, will leave his position after nearly 14 years in office.

Putin nominated Igor Krasnov, who has served as deputy chairman of the Investigative Committee, to replace Chaika.