The Proposal and The Exodus
Last Wednesday, in a complete surprise to the ministers, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced that the entire Russian government, including himself, was resigning. This comes hours after Putin’s proposal on the constitutional amendment which transfers power from the President to the Prime Minister and parliament, a power shift that has long been speculated in Russia. According to Medvedev, the decision to resign was to allow Putin’s proposed reform to succeed. Putin then nominated tax service chief Mikhail Mishustin for the post of prime minister.
While Putin seems to be shifting power from his role as President, many critics fear that Putin could take up the role of Prime Minister after his Presidency term ends in 2024, allowing him to retain control over Russia. This allows him to circumvent the constitutional provision barring the same person from serving two consecutive terms as President.
Putin had previously worked around this rule by stepping down as President and taking up the role of Prime Minister from 2008-2012. Medvedev stepped in as President during this period. This freed Putin up for another Presidential run in 2012, when sure enough, he retook his role as President, claiming that Medvedev was not a viable successor in the long term.
While those not in favour of the changes may choose to raise a referendum (where the citizens could vote on the President’s new proposal), opposition leader Alexei Navalny believes that any referendum on the constitutional changes would be “fraudulent crap” as he criticised that Putin aims was to be Russia’s “sole leader for life”.
With a parliamentary election coming up in 2021, and the proposed amendment giving parliament the power to appoint the Prime Minister, Putin might have to forge a formal relationship with United Russia, the country’s ruling party, and hold a loyal majority in the State Duma to ensure that he stays in power.