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The forever president Russian lawmakers amend constitutional reform legislation to keep Vladimir Putin in power

Source: Meduza
Mikhail Mettsel / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

What happened? On March 10, 2020, Russia's State Duma is reviewing the second reading of constitutional reform legislation. During Tuesday's parliamentary session, United Russia deputy Valentina Tereshkova proposed an amendment that would either zero out the incumbent president's term clock (allowing Putin to run for another two terms) or eliminate presidential term limits altogether. United Russia's faction leader in the State Duma, Sergey Neverov, immediately signaled his party members' support for Tereshkova's proposal. Vladimir Putin will personally visit the State Duma to discuss the new initiative after 3 p.m., Moscow time. What else happened? LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky proposed snap parliamentary elections on September 20, 2020. The proposal has already been added to Russia's constitutional reform legislation as a formal amendment. Then what happened? Vladimir Putin made a rare visit to the State Duma and gave a speech rejecting the proposals for snap elections and eliminated term limits, while supporting an amendment that would zero his term clock, if Russia's Constitutional Court upholds the idea.

In a speech to the State Duma, Vladimir Putin said he does not support proposals to hold snap parliamentary elections or eliminate presidential term limits, but he did endorse a proposal to zero his own presidential term clock, so long as Russia's Constitutional Court rules that this amendment is legal.
  • According to Higher School of Economics scholar Mikhail Krasnov, Russia's Constitutional Court already ruled in 1998 that even the adoption of an entirely new Constitution does not zero presidential term clocks.
  • Federation Council chairwoman Valentina Matviyenko says it's wrong to claim that Russia's constitutional reforms were designed from the start as a way to extend Putin's presidency. She insists that the 2024 presidential election will be competitive. “Nothing is a foregone conclusion,” she says.
  • ❗ Russia's State Duma has formally adopted an amendment that would zero presidential term clocks, following the adoption of constitutional reforms. Lawmakers then passed the second reading of the entire constitutional reform bill. The third and final reading is scheduled for a vote on March 11.
  • The text of the term-zeroing amendment was distributed to deputies 20 minutes before the vote. The amendment says presidential service before Russia's Constitution is reformed will not limit future candidates.
  • Andrey Turchak, the secretary of United Russia's General Council, has endorsed Zhirinovsky's call for snap parliamentary elections, saying early elections would be “logical and correct.” “First and foremost, this would be an honest gesture toward our voters,” Turchak explained.
  • Responding to news about Tereshekova's proposal, opposition politician Alexey Navalny tweeted that he expects the Kremlin's next major initiative to be a ban on all public events for the next six months as a preventative measure against the spread of coronavirus.
  • The State Duma has formally introduced an amendment to its constitutional reform bill that would allow it to reduce its own term in office with a two-thirds vote, empowering the president to call snap parliamentary elections. The amendment was suggested just hours earlier by Vladimir Zhirinovsky. United Russia deputy Alexander Karelin immediately endorsed the idea with a formal amendment, which he later withdrew, following Putin's criticism.
  • This morning, LDPR party chairman Vladimir Zhirinovsky proposed canceling direct elections for president altogether and empowering the State Council to choose the president. His proposal did not receive the Parliament's support.
  • United Russia deputy Alexander Karelin says Valentina Tereshkova's proposal to extend the Putin presidency “demands additional consultations,” arguing that the 200 other amendments in the constitutional reform bill are a more immediate concern.
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