By Sarah Adamo
President Vladimir Putin of Russia put his name to a law on April 5 which could permit him to retain his political office until 2036. According to USA Today, the measure coincides with a popular vote on the nation’s constitution on July 1 of last year which held a provision enabling Putin to run for president two more times despite his over two decades long run. Aside from the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who ruled for 24 years according to History.com, Putin has held power longer than any other Kremlin official.
A proposal for this change came last March when lawmaker and Putin sympathizer Valentina Tereshkova promoted a constitutional change during a discussion in the State Duma (the Russian equivalent of American Congress). After hearing of this, Putin offered support before parliament. Addressing the public through a televised speech shortly thereafter, he stated that he would consider remaining in power “if the constitutional court gives an official ruling that such an amendment [to extend his presidency] would not contradict the principles and main provisions of the constitution,” CBS News said.
According to USA Today, other constitutional amendments focused on prioritizing domestic law over international patterns, sought to ban same-sex marriages and identified “a belief in God” as an integral value to the Russian identity.
To justify this continued possession of power, the 68-year-old president reasoned that his lieutenants would not have to disrupt their usual duties to find potential candidates, NBC News reported. Backed by this new legislation, Putin also announced that he will make more conclusive decisions about running again in 2024 at the close of his present six-year term.
While the new law restricts any presidential candidates to two presidential terms in their lifetime, it explicitly overlooks any terms served by an individual like Putin before it takes effect, The Guardian noted. Through this provision, Putin essentially “zeroed out” his terms.
In addition to this, presidential terms have been officially expanded to six years. Prior to Putin’s return to the presidential office in 2012, terms of four years were supported by law. Other notable alterations include lifetime immunity that the law provides to Putin and former President Dmitry Medvedev from prosecution, The Guardian adds.
Despite the state’s apparent endorsement of this decision, NBC News pointed out an increasing number of Russian citizens raised opposition to Putin within the past year, invigorated to a large extent by the poisoning and imprisonment of political activist Alexei Navalny.
Despite the 78% of voters who approved the constitutional amendment on presidential terms back in July, with a 68% turnout rate, NBC News reports that critics are questioning the results. Some allege that pressure was placed on voters and that independent monitoring during the vote was inhibited.
Since Putin initially served two terms as Russia’s president and became prime minister in 2008 due to term limits to remain the de facto leader – all before occupying the presidency yet again in 2012 – many speculate that the novel law is a power grab to avoid relinquishing executive control, The Guardian reported.