- Peter Mircea-Ditiu
Putin's Grab at Power
Vladimir Putin has been in power since 1999. Serving as Prime Minister on two separate occasions, he is currently serving his fourth presidential term. Having held power for 20 years and with the Russian constitution preventing him from running again in 2024, people all around the world began to wonder at what a Putin-less Russia would look like. Putin, on the other hand, has different ideas.
On the 6th of March, Putin grudgingly reassured the Russian people that they would not relive their experience of the Soviet leaders who died in office. “I like my job, but to retain the power I have, (I would have) to agree to some scheme that would be unacceptable for the country or...destroy it.”
4 days later, however, Putin told parliament that he is willing to turn back the clock on term limits and suggested that he may stand again in 2024. Two more six-year terms would consequently keep Putin, if he stands and wins re-election (again), in-office until 2036 when he will be 83 years old. This would make the 67-year-old, former KGB officer, the country’s longest-lasting leader, with Josef Stalin coming in a close second, having ruled for 29 years.
“The proposal to remove restrictions for any person, including the incumbent president ... In principle, this option would be possible, but on one condition - if the constitutional court gives an official ruling that such an amendment would not contradict the principles and main provisions of the Constitution,” he said.
Putin pointed out that Franklin D Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the US, also served four terms to lead his country through turbulent times. He used this as an example to depict why presidential term limits should not sometimes be required.
“In conditions when a country is experiencing such shocks and difficulties, of course ... stability is perhaps more important and must be a priority,” Putin said, implying that Russia is still recovering from the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Despite the fact that it would be wrong to completely remove term limits, Putin said that “lifting restrictions against...any citizen, including the current president, from taking part in an election in the future” is a different concern.
The resolution still needs to be passed by a nationwide vote next month along with the country's Constitutional Court before it can come into effect. The President’s critics have called for protests, condemning the move as a strategy to keep him in office beyond his term limit in 2024. Conveniently, however, Moscow’s city authorities have banned any large gatherings of more than 5,000 people, due to the coronavirus outbreak, at least until April 10th.
It is unclear as to when the Constitutional Court will decide, but a nationwide vote on the suggested resolution is set for the 22nd of April: Lenin’s birthday.
Although Putin promised that “I have no doubt that the day will come when the supreme, presidential power in Russia will not be so personalised.”