The term-limit proposal was met with applause when it was introduced by State Duma deputy Valentina Tereshkova, beloved nationally as the first woman in space. The plan would reset the current term limits to zero, meaning Putin could run twice more for the presidency, once a restructured constitution is adopted.
“I propose that we either lift the restriction on the number of presidential terms or indicate in an article of this bill that the incumbent president, just like any other citizen, has the right to run for president after the updated constitution takes effect,” Tereshkova said.
Parliament then adjourned for 90 minutes to phone Putin and ask for his thoughts. That prompted him to make a rare in-person appearance.
He said he was against eliminating presidential term limits altogether. However, if Russia’s Constitutional Court says that resetting term limits is legal, that amendment and other proposed constitutional changes can be approved in a nationwide vote on April 22.
Putin, 67, has been in power for 20 years. He first proposed the constitutional changes in his January address to parliament, including limiting presidential terms to two.
“I am actually positive that a strong presidential vertical is absolutely necessary for our country,” he said Tuesday.
“I am sure a time will come when supreme presidential power in Russia will not be, so to speak, personalized so much and will not be centered on one particular person,” Putin added.
When the constitutional changes were proposed in January, analysts speculated that they could be an avenue for Putin to retain influence past his current presidential term. One of his suggestions was “enshrining” the State Council, which advises the president, in the constitution and giving it vague and broad power, including say in foreign policy. That led some to believe Putin’s post-2024 plan was to head that body.
But in a recent visit to the factory city of Ivanovo, roughly 150 miles from Moscow, Putin rejected that notion.
“There are suggestions to give the State Council some special powers and [for me to] become the head of that State Council. What will it mean? It will amount to the situation of diarchy in our country. Such a situation is absolutely fatal for Russia,” Putin said Friday.
He reiterated that point Tuesday: “Vesting other authorities, centers of authority, such as the Security Council or the State Council, particularly, which are not directly elected by the people, with any serious powers related to the presidency, in my opinion, would be wrong and unacceptable and, furthermore, dangerous.”
The proposed term-limit amendment comes a day after the value of the Russian ruble plummeted to its lowest level in more than four years, responding to a dramatic drop in oil prices after the collapse of Russia’s cooperative agreement with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Tuesday’s proposal “will calm everyone down,” Valentina Matviyenko, speaker of the upper house of parliament, told reporters in comments broadcast on state-run television.
Lev Gudkov, director of the Levada Center, Russia’s lone independent pollster, said the depreciation of the ruble, coupled with concern about a coronavirus outbreak that is spreading around the world, “will undoubtedly affect the attitude of the Russian population to Putin and to the Russian government in general” and that an “upcoming sharp rise in consumer prices, a jump in inflation and a rise in the cost of living will increase the degree of discontent.”
In his address to parliament on Tuesday, Putin said he was “absolutely positive” Russia “will go through this period in a commendable manner.” He also said the country has “had enough revolutions.”
He concluded: ‘I’m sure that together, we will do many more great things, at least until 2024. Then, we will see.”