In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Russian president Vladimir Putin said this morning that a suggestion by ruling-party lawmakers that would see his presidential tenure reset, thus allowing him to run again in 2024, should be supported by citizens and adopted by the Constitutional Court.
“Putin needs to be there -- in case something goes wrong” amid global political and economic turbulence, Valentina Tereshkova, a respected lawmaker who was also the first woman in space, told the State Duma in a speech shown on state TV during debates on a constitutional overhaul put forward by the Kremlin.
“If the situation requires it and, most importantly, if the people want it, to put in law the possibility for the current president to be re-elected to this position is already in accordance with the updated constitution.”
Interfax news service reported that in his address to the State Duma, the parliament’s lower house, Putin said:
“I believe and am deeply convinced that a strong presidential power is absolutely necessary for our country.”
Somewhat ironically, Putin also stressed that the public should have guarantees that elections – including presidential elections – are open and competitive.
As Bloomberg reports, Putin has previously rejected calls to change the presidential term limit, including as recently as last week, and has not indicated any support for early parliamentary elections. While the fact that both proposals came from prominent members of the ruling party suggests they may have Kremlin support, it may also be that the president is using them as trial balloons that are designed to be rejected when he speaks to lawmakers.
Putin has said the plan is aimed at modernizing the basic law and that he plans to observe current term limits, which prevent him from running again. But the overhauls, abruptly announced in January, are widely seen as an effort to create options for Putin to retain control even after he steps down as president.
The removal of term limits and early-vote proposal would require constitutional amendments.
The Kremlin has set a national ballot to approve the constitutional changes for April 22.
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