Putin fast-tracks effort to extend his rule in Russia(Source Associated Press)
President Vladimir Putin on Thursday fast-tracked work on constitutional changes that could keep him in power well past the end of his term in 2024 while lawmakers quickly sealed his choice for new prime minister. Speaking to a working group created to draft constitutional changes, Putin cast his proposals as a way to strengthen parliament and to bolster democracy. Kremlin critics described the proposed changes as an attempt by Putin to secure his rule for life. The Russian leader proposed the sweeping amendments to the country’s constitution in Wednesday’s state of the nation address. Hours later, he fired Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who had the job for eight years, and named tax chief Mikhail Mishustin to succeed him. The Kremlin-controlled lower house, the State Duma, quickly approved Mishustin in a unanimous vote Thursday. The reshuffle has shaken Russia’s political elites, who were left wildly speculating about Putin’s intentions and future Cabinet appointments.
A constitutional reform announced by Putin indicated he was working to carve out a new governing position for himself after his current six-year term ends in 2024, although it remains unclear what specific path he will take to stay in charge.
The former KGB operative has been in power for more than 20 years, longer than any other Russian or Soviet leader since Josef Stalin, who led from 1924 until his death in 1953. Under the law now in force, Putin must step down when his current term ends.
Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, tweeted that Putin’s proposals reflected the 67-year-old president’s intention to “rule until he dies.”