NBC News reports that Russia’s entire government, including the Russian prime minister, has resigned as Putin calls for “sweeping constitutional changes that could see President Vladimir Putin extend his hold on power.”
On Wednesday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced that his government was resigning so that Putin has room to change the constitution. Medvedev was sitting next to Putin, who thanked him for his work and said that he would take a new role as the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council.
Two decades in power
Putin has remained in power for almost two decades as president or prime minister. However, the constitution would have prevented him from immediately running for president again. In 2024, he would have finished up his fourth presidential term.
Russian PM Medvedev and his government are resigning en masse, per Reuters, "to give President Vladimir Putin room to carry out changes he wants to make to the constitution." https://t.co/3h28zSKii9
— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) January 15, 2020
Putin declares ‘society was ready’
At his annual speech before lawmakers, just hours before the government resigned, Putin indicated that he wanted to change the constitution so that the lower house of Parliament called the State Duma could choose Russian officials, including the prime minister.
Putin claimed that “civil society was ready for the changes.”
“‘Of course these are very serious changes to the political system,’ Putin said, adding that he thought Parliament and civil society was ready for the changes.”
Reuters reported that Putin proposed a “nationwide vote” just before Medvedev’s shocking announcement:
“The unexpected announcement, which came shortly after Putin proposed a nationwide vote on sweeping changes that would shift power from the presidency to parliament, means Russia will also get a new prime minister.”
Limiting the power of future presidents
CNBC reported that the changes “would push power toward the prime minister and the Parliament, and away from the presidency. It’s seen as potentially limiting the power of Putin’s successor if he steps down in 2024.”
JUST IN: The entire Russian government resigns, clearing a way for President Vladimir Putin to enact reforms that would weaken his successor https://t.co/KiTD1LXcyI
— CNN (@CNN) January 15, 2020
The outgoing prime minister noted that the changes would change the balance of power.
“After those amendments are adopted … there will be significant changes not only to a variety of constitution articles but to the balance of power, namely to the executive, legislative and judicial branches of power,” the prime minister said, according to TASS.
Reaching out to the West?
Timothy Ash, senior emerging markets strategist at Bluebay Asset Management said the changes could be part of a plan to “refresh” the government and “reach out to the West.”
“I think all this is a response to opinion polls reflecting popular dissatisfaction with government and their lots in life, and ebbing support even for Putin,” Ash noted. In terms of timing, Putin has waited until what he sees as the external risks from sanctions moderating. He will sell this new, fresh government as part of a fresh start/reach out to the West.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has often said that “all roads lead to Putin” when it comes to President Trump. It’s unclear how abruptly changing the Russian constitution to consolidate power helps Putin “reach out to the West.”
American elections should be decided by the American people, not by the Russian Government. Retweet if you agree!
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 14, 2020
Until a new government is appointed, Putin requested that the outgoing government remain at work.
Russian President Vladimir Putin used his annual state-of-the-nation address to reveal constitutional changes, fueling speculation he’s laying the groundwork to keep power beyond the end of his term in 2024 pic.twitter.com/yCEwadVqae
— QuickTake by Bloomberg (@QuickTake) January 15, 2020
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