I seem to be missing something. There’s a logical link that is not quite clear to me in the news reporting of the current debate on constitutional change in Russia. A bill amending the Russian constitution passed its first reading today. Sky News is only one of the media outlets to report in this vein, with the headline:
So, the headline lets me think that something has happened that will now make it easier for Putin to come back as President. Lead paragraph:
Russia’s opposition claims the country has taken one step closer towards full-scale dictatorship after its parliament moved to extend the presidential term from four to six years.
So the presidential term could be extended. There could well be grounds for the opposition’s claims, and it is certainly the responsibility of opposition parties to initiate this sort of debate with other political parties in a healthy democracy. But what does this extension, which Medvedev suggested in his State of the Nation address last month, have to do with Putin? Second paragraph:
The constitutional change, approved at a preliminary hearing, could see Prime Minister Vladimir Putin back in power in the Kremlin as early as next year.
The logical implication here which concerns me is that it implies that the constitutional change will have a direct implication on Putin’s possible return to power. But if we look at the Russian constitution, Article 81 tells us that:
- The President of the Russian Federation shall be elected for four years by citizens of the Russian Federation on the basis of universal, equal, direct suffrage by secret ballot.
- Any citizen of the Russian Federation not younger than 35 years of age and with a permanent residence record in the Russian Federation of not less than 10 years may be elected President of the Russian Federation.
- One and the same person may not be elected President of the Russian Federation for more than two terms running.
Meaning that this constitutional change which was reported in Sky News’ leading paragraph – and headlined on tv – has no impact whatsoever on Putin’s likelihood of retaking power. He is just as likely now as he was previously to return to power after a break in which Medvedev is president.
Al Jazeera International embedded their speculation on this issue in more extended interpretation, arguing that this constitutional amendment, rushed through quickly at this early stage of Medvedev’s presidency, makes it seem even more clear that Medvedev was only installed in order to make this change so that when (not if) Putin comes back – as he already could under the old constitution – he can come back for 12 years and not only eight.