MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin has submitted to Parliament a package of constitutional amendments widely seen as an attempt to secure his grip on power well after his current term ends in 2024.
Putin first presented the proposed changes in his state-of-the-nation address Wednesday, arguing they are intended to bolster the role of Parliament and strengthen democracy. Kremlin critics have argued that they are intended to allow his rule for life.
The Kremlin-controlled lower house, the State Duma, confirmed on Monday that it has received a draft bill on constitutional proposals from the Kremlin. The lawmakers will fast-track the document, putting it for discussion at Thursday’s meeting.
Putin, 67, has been in power for more than 20 years, longer than any other Russian or Soviet leader since Josef Stalin, who led from 1924 until his death in 1953. Under the law now in force, Putin must step down as president when his current term ends.
Observers say that the proposed changes could allow Putin to stay in charge by shifting into the position of head of the State Council or moving into the prime minister’s seat after increasing the powers of Parliament and the Cabinet and trimming presidential authority.
Putin’s amendments include a proposal to give the constitution a clear priority over international law — a tweak seen as a reflection of the Kremlin’s irritation over the European Court of Human Rights’ rulings that held Russia responsible for human rights violations.
Another suggested amendment says that top government officials aren’t allowed to have foreign citizenship or residence permits.
Parallel to lawmakers, a working group created by Putin will also consider the proposed changes before they are put to the vote.
Putin said that the constitutional changes need to be approved by the entire nation, but it wasn’t immediately clear how such a vote would be organized.
Along with amending the constitution, Putin last week also fired Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who had the job for eight years, and named tax chief Mikhail Mishustin to succeed him. The Russian leader is yet to appoint the new Cabinet.