Opinion How Vladimir Putin just consolidated his czardom

20:25  15 january  2020
20:25  15 january  2020 Source:   washingtonexaminer.com

Russia's Putin oversees hypersonic missile test near Crimea

  Russia's Putin oversees hypersonic missile test near Crimea Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday oversaw military exercises from a naval vessel in the Black Sea near Crimea, including the test launch of a hypersonic air-launched Kinzhal missile, the Kremlin said. © Thomson Reuters Russian anti-submarine corvette Muromets fires during the joint drills of the Northern and Black Sea fleets, attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the Black Sea, off the coast of Crimea January 9, 2020. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.

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Dissolving Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's government and outlining major constitutional reforms, President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday moved to assert more explicitly his absolute control over Russian politics.

This is Putin's clearest signal yet that he intends to continue as Russia's master for the long term.

Putin proposes giving parliament power to choose Russia's PM

  Putin proposes giving parliament power to choose Russia's PM President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday he wanted to give parliament the power to choose Russia's prime minister along with other responsibilities, but said he would like to keep Russia's strong presidential system in place.  The comments, at Putin's state of the nation address, come as observers watch for clues as to how he might reform the political system before 2024 when his current presidential term ends and the constitution requires him to step down.

Although Putin backed away from amending the constitution to allow himself to serve another presidential starting in 2024 (the constitution limits presidents to serving two consecutive terms at a time), his other reforms are designed to consolidate his dominance. The details are not yet fully clear, and Putin says all the proposals will be put to a referendum, but his strategy is clear. Standout reforms include:

  • Allowing the president and parliamentary upper house to remove Supreme Court judges and play a role in approving security service heads.
  • Increasing the State Council's authoritative power — it's currently a presidential advisory board.
  • Requiring constitutional court checks on new legislation.
  • Empowering the Duma to appoint the prime minister and Cabinet — even where the president disagrees with appointees.
  • Requiring presidential candidates to have lived in Russia for at least 25 years and always without foreign citizenship or residency rights.

Interestingly, Putin also wants to ban top officials from having dual citizenship or foreign residency permits — likely to reduce their vulnerability to foreign intelligence service recruitment.

Russian prime minister and government resign after Putin speech

  Russian prime minister and government resign after Putin speech Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday that his government was resigning to give President Vladimir Putin room to carry out the changes he wants to make to the constitution.   © Sputnik/Dmitry Astakhov/Pool via REUTERS Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev speak before a meeting with government members in Moscow, Russia January 15, 2020. The unexpected announcement, which came shortly after Putin proposed a nationwide vote on sweeping changes that would shift power from the presidency to parliament, means Russia will also get a new prime minister.

In any event, it's pretty clear that Putin is creating new political structures to restrain the power of future presidents. An important factor to consider is that while these amendments seem declarative, Putin will play an outsize role in their interpretation and action. Again, this is about ensuring that no future leader can wrest control from Putin in a way that would jeopardize his interests.

What of the new Cabinet?

Well, the predictably docile Medvedev was happy to endorse his expulsion from the inner circle. Putin has asked Mikhail Mishustin to serve as Medvedev's replacement. It's an unremarkable choice. The 10-year head of Russia's long-corrupted federal tax service, Mishustin has avoided the bright lights of Kremlin celebrity in favor of quiet Putin loyalism. But in replacing the corrupt Medvedev with Mishustin, Putin has simply replaced one yes man for another. Mishustin will serve primarily for the protection of the inner-circle corruption that defines Russia's kleptocracy.

That said, the departure of longtime foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu (a possible Putin successor) will be interesting. Putin can now appoint new faces that offer a fresh presentation to the Russian people and an assurance of absolute loyalty to his person.

Still, the key takeaway here is that whether in the shadows or otherwise, Putin is going to be the Russian czar for a long time to come.

Russia's Putin remains secretive about his future role .
Russian President Vladimir Putin remained tight-lipped about his future role Wednesday as he fast-tracks a set of constitutional changes widely seen as an attempt to maintain his dominance over the nation's political scene after his current term ends in 2024. Asked at a meeting with students if Russia could follow the example of Kazakhstan, where a longtime president stepped down last year but continued calling the shots by assuming another prominent position, Putin shrugged off the idea as unfit for Russia.

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