Russian MPs on Thursday approved the constitutional amendments presented by President Vladimir Putin, reported international media. On January 15, during his state of the nation annual speech, Putin announced major constitutional changes resulting in the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
On Monday, Putin submitted his amendments to the State Duma which is the lower house of Russsian Parliament. The Kremlin-controlled Duma voted unanimously in the favour of amendments on Thursday after discussing it for nearly two hours. The proposed amendments suggested that politicians could name prime ministers and Cabinet members, a greater role of the State Council and an obscure consultative body of regional governors and federal officials. It also sought to prioritise the primacy of Russian laws over international law. Putin argued that his proposed changes would bolster democracy in the country.
Many critics view the constitutional amendments as the 67-year-old President’s move to wield power after he steps down from his role as president in 2024. The bill that is submitted in the Federal Assembly empowers the State Council to “determine the main directions of home and foreign policy”, its specific authority yet to be spelt in a separate law.
It also gives the parliament more say over Cabinet ministers’ appointment but emphasises that the president should retain the power to dismiss the prime minister and Cabinet ministers and remain in charge of the Russian military and law enforcement agencies. Commentators see these proposals as a strategy for Putin to stay in charge by becoming the head of the State Council. The draft also modifies the constitution to limit a president to two terms altogether, unlike the current version containing a limit of two consecutive terms. The second reading of the bill is scheduled to take place on February 11.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday announced a new government along with some constitutional reforms, international media reported. The new government which Putin described as a break from the past brought in some new faces while retaining many of the senior ministers.