Russia’s entire government is resigning to help facilitate a series of constitutional changes introduced by President Vladimir Putin, announced Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday.
The President “outlined a number of fundamental changes to the constitution, significant changes not only to a number of articles of the constitution, but also to the balance of power as a whole,” said Medvedev, who appears to be the only official who knew about the mass resignation ahead of time.
“In this context, it’s obvious that we, as the government…should provide the president of our country with the opportunity to take all the necessary decisions in these conditions. I believe it right for the government…to step down in conformity with Article 117 of Russia’s Constitution.”
Speaking to lawmakers just hours before Medvedev’s announcement, Putin explained that no one person should serve as president for more than two consecutive terms.
“I propose….entrusting the State Duma (lower house of parliament) with the power to approve the candidacy of the prime minister, and then, per the prime minister’s proposal, [appoint] all deputy prime ministers and federal ministers,” he said. “In this case, the president will be obliged to appoint them…he will not have the right to reject parliament-approved candidacies.”
In other words, key powers will be transferred from the presidency to the parliament and prime minister – perhaps setting up a scenario where Putin can run the country as prime minister when his presidential term ends in 2024.
Currently, the president is responsible for appointing candidates for prime minister and other government ministers and the Duma approves or rejects the choice.
Putin also wants to establish a two-term limit for future presidents, limit the supremacy of international law, and boost the power of the State Council (an advisory group he leads).
The new rules will be put to a nationwide vote some critics expect will be a sham.
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny accused Putin of trying to remain “the sole leader for life, taking ownership of an entire country and appropriating wealth to himself and his friends” and said the upcoming vote would be “fraudulent crap.”
Supporters credit Putin with making the government more effective and democratic ahead of his exit in 2024.
“I think all of this is a response to opinion polls reflecting popular dissatisfaction with government and their lots in life, and ebbing support even for Putin,” said market strategist Timothy Ash. “In terms of timing, Putin has waited until what he sees as the external risks from sanctions moderating. He will sell this new, fresh government as part of a fresh start/reach out to the West.”
Putin has already nominated Mikhail Mishustin, head of Russia’s taxation service, to replace Medvedev as prime minister. Medvedev is expected to serve as deputy head of the National Security Council (another group chaired by Putin).
Medvedev is a longtime Putin ally who served as president from 2008-2012 while Putin served as prime minister.
Editor’s note: You can bet that Putin has multiple hidden agendas, many of which will not see the light of day for years or even decades.