Russian parliament lifts time limit on Putin’s presidency
The 450-seat chamber voted in favour of the changes by 383 votes with 43 abstentions and no votes in opposition.
Russian senators then overwhelmingly approved the amendments, including the option for Putin to run for two more presidential terms.
The constitutional reforms were backed by 160 senators in the Federation Council, with one vote against and three abstentions.
Upper House Speaker Valentina Matviyenko called the passing of the amendments “one of the most important issues in modern history”.
She praised the amendment that would allow Putin to run again when his current term ends in 2024, by resetting the clock on his previous presidential terms.
Putin had been due to step down in 2024 under the law barring anyone from serving more than two consecutive six-year terms. He avoided this rule in 2008 by switching to prime minister until 2012, installing then premier, Dmitry Medvedev, as president.
It remains to be seen whether Russia will continue with its refusal to sell Belarus oil and gas at domestic prices.
Analysts suspected that the Kremlin was trying to force its former Soviet colony into a new joint state to enable Putin to avoid the 2024 limit.
Alexei Navalny, Putin’s most prominent critic, said the populist president had been “appointed czar”.
Polling suggests Russian voters are increasingly losing trust in Putin. His personal-confidence ratings fell to near record lows last year as poverty levels rose and there were increasing allegations of corruption.
The constitutional reforms must now be approved by two-thirds of Russia’s regional parliaments.
The reforms are also due to be put to a referendum on April 22.
Russians will be required to vote on the amendments as a single package, with no option to vote against individual changes.
“All this indecent fuss with the constitution was conceived for the sake of two new terms of Putin,” said Dmitry Gudkov, an opposition politician.
“We have already done a lot to strengthen the country,” Putin told the Duma. “I’m sure that we will do lots more. At the very least, until 2024. And then we’ll see.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his loyal sometime prime minister and president, Dmitry Medvedev. Picture credit: Wikimedia