Russian President Vladimir Putin has reset the presidential mandate counter. The Russian leader signed the law that will allow him, if he so wishes, to run two more presidential elections and thus perpetuate himself in power. With this last signature, he enshrines the rule, practically tailored to him, which rewrites the Constitution to allow him to bypass the topic that provides that the president cannot hold office for more than two consecutive terms. The controversial measure, which went through a year and was submitted to popular consultation – with which the Kremlin wanted to pass the varnish of approval to the citizens, due to the harsh criticisms of the opposition -, gives Putin the opportunity to continue to occupy the seat presidential until 2036.
The law, which was published on Monday in the Russian official gazette, limits presidential terms to two; and not just two in a row, as now, which had allowed Putin to alternate two terms in a row with one as prime minister and return to the presidency. However, the law specifically states that anyone who served as president of Russia prior to the entry into force of the amendments to the constitution is no longer prohibited from returning to office. And that brings a new opportunity for Putin, 68, as well as his ally Dmitri Medvedev, the man who replaced him to keep the Kremlin chair for him for a term between 2008 and 2012, when the Russian leader was forced to leave the presidency and then became prime minister, precisely because the Constitution did not allow him to run for the third consecutive time. In 2012, Putin returned to run for election and the constitution was amended to extend the presidential term from four to six years. These maneuvers sparked multitudinous protests across the country.
With the constitutional changes, which not only cleared his accountant, but also encompass a package of measures that makes Russia a more conservative and nationalist country, and deals with patriotism and religion, Putin also ensures that no other president has as much power as he does . His move to alternate the presidency with the post of prime minister will no longer be possible.
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The Russian president, who in theory should retire in 2024, when his current term ends, is very enigmatic about his future and avoids commenting on his possible political plans. Analysts do believe that changes to the Russian constitution are above all a formula for leaving all doors open and relaxing possible political wars over their succession. There is currently no sponsored successor in sight. In addition, with the new laws, Putin guarantees for himself and for Medvedev – and in a way for the relatives of the two, their assets or companies – lifelong immunity. Medvedev, who remains with Putin, is now the vice president of the Russian Security Council.
The reform comes at a time when Putin, who remained during most of the pandemic at his residence outside Moscow and almost without participating in open public acts, is in one of his lowest moments of popularity (although he maintains support of 60 %, high by Western standards), mainly due to the health crisis, social discontent, the economy and the case of the oppositionist Alexei Navalny, poisoned in the middle of last year in Siberia and who accuses the Russian leader of having orchestrated this attack.
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