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On Wednesday, January 15, the Russian government announced a wave of resignations after President Vladimir Putin proposed changes to the constitution that would give more power to the cabinet, parliament and prime minister’s (PM) office. The resignations occurred within hours of a televised national address by Putin that laid out the constitutional changes.
Among those that resigned were PM Dmitry Medvedev, a longtime Putin ally, along with the entire cabinet. Many political analysts suspect Putin is attempting to get around legal obstacles that could impede his ability to retain power after his term ends in 2024.
Holding a firm grip on power
This isn’t the first time Putin has used political maneuvers to retain power. He has served as Russia’s leader, whether at the PM’s office or at the presidential level, since 1999. After a brief stint as PM at the turn of the century, Putin held the president’s office for eight years. He was compelled to step down in 2008, however, and revert back to his role as PM due to constitutional term limits that prevented him from standing for the office again.
Medvedev, the PM at the time, willingly swapped roles with Putin. With the consecutive term limit issue behind them, he stepped down as president in 2012 to pave the way for Putin’s return. Putin has retained the presidency since then. Although Russia’s government is similarly structured to other Western systems – with a parliament, ministries and cabinet – the country is often viewed as an autocracy, with Putin holding absolute power.
Future of Russian government
Although his time as PM is over for now, Medvedev is set to become the vice-chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation (SCRF), a body that works closely with the president’s office. In line with previous maneuvers, Medvedev is demonstrating a public willingness to follow Putin’s lead on the government’s reshuffling.
The president has “outlined a number of fundamental changes to the constitution,” Medvedev said in response to Putin’s speech. “In this context, it’s obvious that we, as the government … should provide the president of our country with the opportunity to make all the decisions necessary for this,” he added.
To replace Medvedev, Putin nominated Mikhail Mishustin, the 53-year-old head of the Russian Federal Tax Service (FTS), as the next prime minister. It is reported that Mishustin has maintained a low public profile during his time in government. He will be quizzed by parliament on Thursday, January 16 for the role.