by WorldTribune Staff, March 11, 2020
Vladimir Putin reportedly is backing a member of parliament’s call for an end to presidential term limits in Russia, which would essentially make him president for life.
On March 10, Russian State Duma member Valentina Tereshkova, a prominent member of Putin’s United Russia Party, proposed that “Perhaps presidential term limits should be removed from the constitution.”
Party leaders soon endorsed Tereshkova’s suggestion, paving the way for Putin to say that “it would technically be possible to cancel the restriction” on his presidency. Putin, declaring himself parliament’s “humble servant,” backed the idea “on condition people vote … for this amendment.”
If term limits are eliminated, analysts said Putin would likely keep power for at least two more terms beyond the current one, putting him on pace to surpass Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, who died in office at 77 in 1982 as the oldest Russian head of state in the modern era.
“It will basically solidify his power, and he will be a new Stalin,” Alisa Muzergues, a foreign policy analyst at GLOBSEC in Slovakia, told the Washington Examiner.
Putin, 67, had in January dismissed the idea of circumventing the presidential term limits, saying that “it would be very worrying to return to the situation of the mid-1980s” when heads of state died in office.
He walked back that remark on Tuesday, saying: “I said then that I did not wish to return to Soviet times. I will be straight. This remark was inappropriate because there were no elections in Soviet times. Everything was done behind the scenes or as a result of some interparty procedures or intrigues.”
Putin in recent months has forced mass resignations in his government. The former KGB officer also has pressured neighboring Belarus, a former Soviet vassal state, to proceed with a plan to unite with Russia. That Belarus move is “widely perceived as an attempt to forge a new Russian state that he could continue to lead,” the Washington Examiner’s Joel Gehrke noted.
Putin, in address to the Russian legislature on Tuesday, said “There are precedents for elections for more than two terms, including in the United States. And why? Look: the Great Depression. Huge economic problems, unemployment and poverty in the U.S. at that time, and later on, World War II. When a country is going through such upheavals and such difficulties — in our case, we have not yet overcome all the problems since the USSR. This is also clear — stability may be more important and must be given priority.”
Under current term limits, Putin would be forced to leave office in 2024. The fourth-term president spent four years as prime minister after two previous terms as president.
Putin is still “quite young, especially compared to your current presidential candidates in the U.S.,” Muzergues said. U.S. President Donald Trump is 73. Democratic Party frontrunner Joe Biden is 78.
“He’s now 67,” Muzergues said of Putin, “so in 2036, he will be 83, and so basically, he can easily do it.”