Moscow The new decade begins in Russia with a political bang: President Vladimir Putin wants to weaken the president with changes to the constitution and make the government more dependent on parliament. This was announced by the Kremlin chief on Wednesday in his speech on the state of the nation.
The Russian government immediately resigned. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev justified this by wanting to give the president a free hand in transforming power. "Against this background, it is obvious that we as the government must give the President the opportunity to make all the decisions that are necessary."
Putin, who has recently been struggling with low levels of approval among the population, accepted the resignation and thanked them for working together, "even if everything didn't work out". He asked the cabinet members to continue their work for the time being. He offered Medvedev the post of deputy chief in the National Security Council – a kind of consolation prize.
A successor for Medvedev has not yet been named. There have been speculations about candidates in the past. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the head of the Court of Auditors Alexei Kudrin were named among others.
However, Putin has repeatedly nominated surprising candidates in previous terms as president. In 2004, just two weeks before the presidential election, he named Mikhail Fradkov, who was hitherto completely unknown, as prime minister.
Who will lead the United Russia party in the future?
It is questionable whether Medvedev will remain head of the Kremlin party "United Russia" after his resignation as prime minister. The party was founded at the beginning of the Putin era. The only goal is to support Putin.
It is quite possible that Putin will take the lead himself again. This would consolidate his position in the power structure and give him the opportunity to stay in control even after his presidency ended. After all, the constitutional changes that Putin announced envisaged a drastic restructuring of the political system.
So far, power has been almost entirely in the hands of the President. Putin, who will have to step down from office in 2024, is now proposing to change this level of power “due to the growing political maturity of Russia”. The Duma, the Russian lower house of parliament, is to appoint the government in the future. So far, she has only been allowed to approve Putin's candidates.
Now Putin wants to commit to appointing the government proposed by the Duma. However, he reserves the right to remove the government and ministers if they fail to meet his expectations.
In addition, Putin claimed to "continue to direct the armed forces and all security organs". This means that the president continues to appoint the leadership of all intelligence, armed and police forces, and judicial authorities. In the future, however, only after consultations with the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament. Putin argues that because of the size of Russia and the diversity of its regions, it is not appropriate to completely transform the presidential republic into a parliamentary one.
First referendum in 17 years
All of these constitutional changes are to be approved by a referendum. The last referendum was in 1993 when the current constitution was passed. Putin believes that the innovations should enable the "desire of the citizens for change" and a renewal of the elite.
Putin confirmed his departure as President in 2024: He was "in agreement with the limitation of the term of office to two periods, even if I do not consider it in principle," he said verbatim. Putin would also benefit personally from the changes if he were to become prime minister in 2024 – and would then be less dependent on the next president.
For the new president, Putin wants to have certain conditions laid down in the constitution. He must have lived in Russia for at least 25 years at a time and must never have had any other citizenship or even a residence permit.
This wording probably serves to discipline one's own entourage, because in the past few years information has leaked several times, according to which high-ranking persons in the area of the Kremlin have a residence permit abroad, which they can use as reinsurance in the event of problems in Russia.
Decoupling from abroad
Putin wants to further disconnect himself from abroad. In his speech on the state of the nation, the Kremlin chief explicitly called for the priority of his own constitution to be set before international treaties and laws. This should affect the recognition of international courts and judgments. In the past, the European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly condemned Russia to high compensation payments for violating civil rights.
Putin summarized his view that Russia must be stable on the outside, but flexible on the inside. The Duma is now responsible for implementing the changes.
Several MPs have already promised to enforce the instructions quickly. The head of the populist party LDPR Vladimir Zhirinovsky named September 13 as a possible date for the referendum.
Putin wants to dampen discontent with social policy. He announced the increase in birth premiums, which should no longer apply from the second child but from the first, and the extension of child benefit for the needy, which is now paid up to the age of seven.
Free school lunches up to fourth grade and broadband internet in every school were just as late as Christmas presents to Russian citizens as were billions of dollars in healthcare investments. However, his announcements of how he plans to boost economic growth remained vague.
More: Head of state Vladimir Putin seems to be brimming with strength more than ever – also to counter his bad approval ratings.
. (tagsToTranslate) Moscow (t) Russia (t) Putin (t) Medvedev (t) Kremlin (t) Head of State (t) Government (t) Constitution (t) Politician (t) Domestic Policy (t) Foreign Policy with Country (t) United Russia Jedinaja Rossija (t) Vladimir Putin