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Russian government resigns after Putin calls for reforming constitution

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (en.Kremlin.ru/Released)
January 15, 2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin caused a rift in the parliament with new proposals to Russia’s constitution that would strengthen the power of parliament while securing some of his own power.

The proposal would turn over power to appoint new Cabinet members and the prime minister to parliament – a power that is currently held by the Russian president, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

The Russian president, however, would retain the power to dismiss a Cabinet member or prime minister.

Among Putin’s “sweeping” constitutional changes are presidential term limits and requirements. Presidents would be limited to two terms, and only Russian residents of 25 years with no foreign citizenship would be eligible for the presidency.

“Our society is clearly demonstrating a demand for change,” Putin declared.

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Putin revealed his proposal after his annual address to parliament, and the resignation of Russia’s prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, soon followed.

Medvedev’s entire government will be resigning in his footsteps, though Putin has asked them to stay in place until a replacement government could be formed.

Medvedev has been a significant figure in helping solidify Putin’s power over Russia. It was Medvedev who swapped places with Putin, allowing Putin to serve as president after maxing out his consecutive presidential terms from 2000 to 2008.

Putin’s constitutional changes would need to be approved at a national referendum, which hasn’t been held in Russia since 1993.

Russian political analyst Tatiana Stanovay said Putin’s move is a way for him to secure leverage for future roles and influence after his presidency has concluded.

“This is all about how to influence the prerogatives of the future president,” Stanovay said. “Putin would like to have some leverage, some mechanism to control and to get involved in case his successor makes mistakes or has some disagreements with him.”

According to Stanovay, Putin isn’t likely to try to pursue a role of prime minister after his presidency, but he could attempt to secure a state council role, especially if the constitutional changes are implemented to strengthen such a position.

“He wants to focus on foreign policy, and I think the state council is much more convenient for him. But for that, he will need to make it a constitutional body and significantly enlarge its possibilities,” Stanovay added.

Putin also proposed some economic changes, including rules on future minimum wage and pension standards as a stagnant economy has been a source of his declining approval rating.