Vladimir Putin paves the way for a transition. And the first chapter to achieve this is to have a new Government. Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev and his Cabinet have resigned on Wednesday. The unprecedented resignation came after the Russian president has proposed in his ceremonial annual speech on the state of the nation “substantial” changes in the Constitution that would weaken the powers of an eventual successor. The modifications, which must be endorsed through a referendum, establish new and tougher requirements to lead the country, strengthen the role of Parliament and a renewed Council of State. Putin’s announcement and this government crisis fuels speculation that he is looking for another position to remain in power after 2024, when his term ends legally.
Medvedev, who faithfully held the position of prime minister in several terms since 2012, stated that the resignation seeks to give Putin space to carry out the proposed constitutional changes. “These amendments, when adopted, will mean significant changes not only in several articles of the Constitution, but also in the balance of power,” Medvedev said with President Putin in an appearance on state television. Medvedev, who held a mandate in the presidency giving space to Putin so that he could re-present, he will assume a newly created position: deputy head of the Security Council led by the Russian president.
The Government will remain in office and the president now has two weeks to propose a new prime minister. Sergei Sobyanin, the mayor of Moscow, Maxim Oreshkin, the Minister of Economy, or Alexander Novak, the Minister of Energy, sound in the pools.
The changes in the Magna Carta announced by the Russian president have resulted in a very rare situation. It is the first time in Putin’s second decade in power that the government resigns in block, although there had been episodes during its first two terms. After the announcement of resignation, the ruble and the aggregate index of the Moscow Stock Exchange collapsed, although shortly after they have recovered.
“These are very serious changes in the political system,” Putin stressed in front of a lectern in front of the 620 senators and deputies and numerous guests of the country’s elite. The Russian leader has suggested amending the Constitution to give more authority to the state Duma and the Federation Council (the two Russian Legislative Chambers), who will name the prime minister and government ministers; Until now, it only approved the president’s appointment. “It will increase the role of Parliament and parliamentary parties, the powers and independence of the prime minister,” he said. Although the president may dismiss the Government and continue to lead the Army and have the ability to dismiss the Cabinet.
In what several analysts consider as a change for the future and the transition of the country, Putin not only spoke of lowering the broad powers that the presidency now has but also of limiting to two, in total, the mandates. Now, the Russian Magna Carta allows them to be two “consecutive”, a clause that would be eliminated and that is what has allowed him to be president for four terms, alternating them with a term of prime minister in the middle.
Putin also spoke of hardening the conditions for running for president and leading the Russian regions: those who have not lived in Russia for the past 25 years, have had foreign nationality will be banned, and those who have or have had a residence permit may not present themselves in other country.
With the various modifications, Putin, 67, who has been in power for two decades, would ensure that no one holds power for as long as he does. He is the person who has been in charge for the longest since Josef Stalin (in the USSR). His succession and what role the man who manages all power will play is a vital issue for Russia.
In a movement in which several analysts see a possible way out for the future of the Russian leader, Putin has talked about setting in the Constitution the role and powers of the State Council, an advisory body headed by the president, and in which all regions of Russia are represented, which now has a merely ceremonial role. If a strengthened council with significant powers is achieved, they venture, it could be the position chosen for Putin. It would be a model similar to the one chosen in Kazakhstan by Nursultán Nazarbáyev, who despite getting out of the presidency remains at the forefront on key issues.
The Russian president proposed another significant change: that the norms of the Constitution will prevail over the norms and requirements of international agreements. The changes must be approved through a referendum, the first of its kind since 1993.