A recent wave of constitutional reform in Russia, pushed for by President Putin, is giving us some insight into the President’s long term plans for himself and Russia.
Vladimir Putin has long dominated Russian politics. He was appointed as Prime Minister in August 1999 by then President Boris Yeltsin. After Yeltsin resigned, Putin became acting President, and was then elected as President in 2000, and re-elected in 2004. Due to the constitution barring him from a third consecutive term, he was again appointed Prime Minister by the new President, Dmitry Medvedev. Putin was then allowed to be elected President for another 2 terms, starting in 2012 and 2018 respectively.
This current term, his second consecutively, would have been his last. However, in January this year, Putin proposed major constitutional amendments to allow him to stay in power.
The proposed amendments were accepted in a referendum in July this year. These reforms reset his number of terms served, allowing him to serve for another two terms. He would no longer have to step down in 2024, giving him the potential to stay in power until 2036. At this point Putin will be 84 years old. He would have been President for just over 32 years, and Prime Minister for 4. A total of 36 years in power.
Further amendments were signed this week by Putin which grant former Presidents and their families immunity for life and exemptions from being questioned, arrested, or searched by police. This immunity can only be stripped if they are charged with treason and other serious crimes, a change which must be confirmed by both Supreme and Constitutional Courts. Coincidentally, earlier amendments gave the President the power to propose the removal of judges in these courts by the Federation Council.
Not only can Putin propose that judges who might threaten his immunity be removed, but he will also get to vote on this, as former Presidents are also to be given lifetime seats on the Federation Council. Putin also gets to appoint 30 Senators to the Federation Council, of which seven will hold the position for life. Members of the Federation Council are also granted immunity.
Putin will therefore continue to be an influential force within Russian politics for years to come. With guaranteed immunity it is unlikely that he will ever have this position diminished. Although, the introduction of immunity for life does raise questions about why. Why would you need immunity for life unless you have committed crimes, or are planning to commit crimes?