russias-new-constitutional-amendment

In a major shakeup in Russia’s politics, Mikhail Mishustin was appointed Prime Minister.  President Vladimir Putin had proposed changes to the country’s Constitution - a move that would make it possible to extend his rule after his term as president ends in 2024.

Background:

  • Hours after Putin’s announcement, former Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev resigned with his entire Cabinet.
  • Putin has led the country for more than 20 years, the longest since Soviet authoritarian leader Josef Stalin. 
  • Since 1999, Putin has continuously been in power, either as prime minister or president. He was re-elected in March 2018 for another 6-year term, which expires in 2024.
  • Under current law, the President is limited to two consecutive terms.

Amendments proposed:

  • Putin has proposed amending Russia’s Constitution to give more power to parliament while curbing the powers of the president
  • Through the amendment, lawmakers would be allowed to name prime ministers and cabinet members, currently a power that lies with the president. 
  • The president would, however, continue to hold on to the right to dismiss them, as well as the power to name top defense and security officials. A nationwide referendum would be conducted to confirm the changes.
  • It is also proposed to make the state council, a body that currently serves in an advisory role to the president, more powerful.

Concerns:

  • Observers believe that after the constitutional changes come into force, Putin would shift back to the prime minister’s chair, effectively securing his future in power through re-elections, while redistributing some of his powers with lawmakers.
  • Putin remains popular with many Russians who believe his rule provides the country stability, but he is also criticized for silencing critics and the press.
  • Mishustin could be Putin’s presidential successor if the latter decides to become prime minister come 2024.

Putin has orchestrated such a shift before. When he stepped down as president in 2008, he became the PM with Dmitry Medvedev assuming the presidency. Medvedev stepped down in 2012 when Putin became president and took up the role of PM. 

Russia

  • The Constitution of the Russian Federation is a written adopted and enacted constitution. The Constitution of the Russian Federation was specially drafted, passed, enacted and adopted by the people of the Russian Federation. Essentially the country is described as a federal presidential republic.
  • It consists of two parts (1) Section A consisting of 137 Articles and (2) Second Part containing 9 Articles covering Concluding and Transitional Provisions.
  • An amendment proposal gets incorporated in the constitution only when at least 2/3rd of the Subjects (units) of the Russian Federation approved it in accordance with the special procedures laid down for the adoption of the federal constitutional laws by the Subjects of Russian Federation (Art 136).

Executive branch in Russia

  • The Prime Minister is appointed by the President with the approval of the Duma and is first-in-line to the presidency in the case of the President’s death or resignation. 
  • Historically the role of Prime Minister has been very much subservient to that of the President. However, this situation changed in March 2008 when Vladimir Putin stepped down as President – as he was constitutionally required to do – and became Prime Minister while the First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev stepped up to the Presidency. 
  • In May 2012, Putin returned to the Presidency and former President Medvedev became Prime Minister in an exchange of roles.

The President

  • The constitution of 1993 provides strong powers for the President. 
  • The Law on Presidential Elections requires that the winner receives more than 50% of the votes cast. 
  • If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two candidates in terms of votes must face each other in a run-off election. 
  • Under the original 1993 constitution, the President was elected for a four-year term, but in November 2008, the constitution was amended to make this a six-year term. 
  • The President is eligible for a second term but constitutionally he is barred from a third consecutive term. 

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