Rule until 2036 or step down and become a senator for life, with guaranteed immunity. Those are the options that the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has today on the table.
The truth is that the president made his way this week to quietly leave the Kremlin, if he so wishes, by signing a law that protects former presidents from judicial persecution.
Now neither the Russian ex-presidents nor their relatives may be subject to arrests, arrests, searches, interrogations or criminal or administrative cases, as stipulated by the recent legal regulation that, after passing through Parliament, was sanctioned by Putin.
The legislation was part of the constitutional amendments that were approved in a referendum in June and that gave the 68-year-old president the green light to remain in the presidency beyond 2024.
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Before the law was enacted, a former president only enjoyed immunity in acts committed during his mandate or related to the exercise of the position, but he was not protected against causes related to events before or after his government.
(the new law) is a blanket guarantee to ensure that Putin’s successor will not seek revenge
Experts agree that there is nothing strange about someone like Putin, who has been in office for more than 20 years and who possibly believes he can be persecuted, introducing such a change in legislation.
“It is not something uncommon, there could be many investigations (…) regarding corruption problems and the issue of Russia’s actions against opponents,” Aymeric Durez, professor of International Relations at the Universidad Javeriana, emphasizing that the new law is “a blanket guarantee to ensure that Putin’s successor will not seek revenge” or delegitimize their actions.
Luisa Lozano, a professor at the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences of the Universidad de la Sabana, told this newspaper that Putin has historically been questioned for events, such as disappearances or imprisonments, committed in some wars led by Russia.
According to Lozano, the extension of immunity is not a surprise, since Putin has long ruled Russia “Without major restrictions” and this responds to the fear that the president has of what may happen if he leaves office.
Dmitry Medvedev, a leader of Russia between 2008 and 2012, was the target of several anti-corruption investigations, carried out by the opposition leader Alexei Navalni, when his term ended. But, fortunately, Medvedev will also benefit from the new legal measure.
Analysts estimate that if Putin started to be investigated for any reason, the risk of being deprived of your immunity would be minimal. Before, the loss of this occurred if the Committee of Instruction of Russia initiated a criminal process for a serious crime committed during the exercise of the position and this was sanctioned by the Federal Assembly (parliament).
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With the ratification of the law, that can only go through a decision of the Senate, which must have an impeachment imposed by the Lower House and backed by two-thirds of Parliament.
Further, the charges have to be confirmed by the Supreme Court or the Constitutional Court and, once this happens, the Senate cannot take more than three months to render a verdict.
According to Durez, that Putin is stripped of his protection is a “totally impossible” fact, since the institutions involved in the process are under his control and he has significant presidential power that was reinforced by the constitutional changes approved this year.
What you want to protect is the Putin legacy, which there can be no risk of being erased …
For his part, Mauricio Jaramillo, professor of International Relations at the Universidad del Rosario, said that “there is nothing impossible in politics” and that what is finally trying to do with the law is reduce the possibility for a process against Putin to be successful.
However, another great objective is added. Putin also signed a law that allows former presidents to serve as senators for life, and which, along with the one that provides them with immunity, becomes a way to protect their legacy.
“What you want to protect is the Putin legacy, which there can be no risk of erasure, either through a legal process against him, hence immunity, or because Russia arrives another prime minister or another president and take another path, ”said Jaramillo, adding that the idea that Putin to become a senator for life means ensuring that “the tradition of presidents is present in long-term Russian politics.”
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For this expert, the three main implications of both laws are the reinforcement of the presidential model imposed in Russia, the “fashion” in the world to judge presidents who leave office and the possible incidence of Putin in the country’s political system if he leaves power.
But Putin has not spoken directly about the latter possibility. Nor about running for a fifth term, despite the fact that the same package of constitutional amendments opened the possibility of being reelected for two more terms.
Thus, although it is not yet certain whether he will continue as president or serve as senator, what his actions suggest is that he wants to have several paths available. Experts suggest that He will only stop ruling due to health problems and that the end of his political life, which in any case gives you security, it is still far away.
PAULA VALERIA GALLO *
* With information from AFP and Efe