Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a constitutional change law that could keep him in power for another 16 years.
The Kremlin confirmed that it signed the measure on Saturday, three days after it sailed through the Russian parliament with a single vote against.
It has yet to be approved by the country’s Constitutional Court and in a referendum set for April 22.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured yesterday) signed a law on constitutional changes that could keep him in power for another 16 years
Under current law, Putin would not have been able to run for president again in 2024 due to mandate limits, but the new measure would have reset the deadline count, allowing him to run for another two years.
He has been in power since 2000.
Other constitutional changes further strengthen the presidency and underline the priority of Russian law over international norms, reflecting the Kremlin’s irritation against the European Court of Human Rights and other international bodies that have often issued verdicts against Russia.
The changes also prohibit same-sex marriage and mention “belief in God” as one of Russia’s traditional values.
The Kremlin confirmed that it signed the measure on Saturday, three days after it sailed through the Russian parliament with a single vote against. The president is represented with Minister of Education Sergei Kravtsov on Thursday
Putin appeared before the Duma on Tuesday after lawmakers proposed a series of amendments to a constitutional reform package that he announced in January.
Among them was the amendment tabled by Valentina Tereshkova, a Soviet-era deputy and cosmonaut who was the first woman in space, who would have nullified previous presidential terms.
Putin said: “These amendments are long overdue, they are necessary and I am sure they will be useful for society, for our citizens”.
He said Russia needed evolutionary change, “because we have had enough of revolutions”, suggesting that the country may not yet be ready for a new leader.
A woman holds a poster in Moscow while participating in an individual protest against the Russian parliament approved amendments to the constitution
‘There will be a time when maximum power … will not be tied to a specific person. But all our previous history happened in this way, and obviously we cannot ignore it. ‘
Lawmakers also proposed holding early parliamentary elections, but Putin said it was unnecessary and that the amendment was withdrawn.
He also rejected the request to lift the two-term global presidential limit.
MEPs therefore voted to approve the reforms in the second key reading, with 382 in favor, 44 abstentions and none against.
Putin shocked the Russian political establishment by announcing the reform package in January, the first major changes to the country’s basic law since 1993.
Political changes will also give parliament the power to choose the government and increase the role of the Council of State, an advisory body.
Other proposals aim to strengthen living standards, including a guaranteed minimum wage and inflation-adjusted state pensions.
And, in line with Putin’s highly conservative ideas, the reforms would sanction a mention of the “faith in God” of the Russians and would specify that marriage is a heterosexual union.
Putin shocked the Russian political establishment by announcing the reform package in January, the first major changes to the country’s basic law since 1993. Pictured: a demonstrator in Moscow last night
Russia’s opposition, including Putin’s most important critic Alexei Navalny, denounced the proposals as an effort to make him “president for life”.
“Interesting how things are going,” Navalny said in a tweet after Putin’s speech.
“Putin has been in power for 20 years, but will run for the first time.”
More than 20,000 protesters took part in a demonstration on February 29 asking Putin not to hold on to power and opposition groups quickly filed for authorization on Tuesday for further demonstrations.
But so far there has been no wave of opposition to the reforms, with polls showing that many Russians are confused about what the constitutional proposals entail.
The changes also prohibit same-sex marriage and mention “belief in God” as one of Russia’s traditional values. Pictured: a protester in Moscow on Friday
Earlier, observers had suggested that Putin might try to remain behind the scenes after 2024 as head of another state body.
But Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said Tuesday’s events made it clear that Putin wanted to stay in command.
“It seems that after playing with the ideas of the State Council and the Security Council Putin has finally decided to run again in 2024,” Trenin said on Twitter.
Putin was re-elected to his fifth term in 2018, but his approval votes have gone down as the Russian economy struggles under the weight of Western sanctions and living standards.
The economy is likely to experience greater turbulence in the coming weeks and potentially months after the collapse in oil prices following the collapse of the agreement on production limits between Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Since then the value of the ruble and Russian stock exchanges has plummeted.
But in tabling the amendment that would nullify previous presidential terms, Tereshkova, a cosmonaut turned political, said that the possibility of staying on Putin would be reassuring.
“The very existence of this opportunity for the President-in-Office – given his great authority – is a stabilizing factor for our society,” he said.