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Dmitri Medvedev rushes in six year term reform for Vladimir Putin

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					Dmitri Medvedev rushes in six year term reform for Vladimir Putin
Report suggests that President Medvedev will make reforms to allow Putin to stay as
president until 2021
Tony Halpin in Moscow
From The Times
November 13, 2008

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
(Alexey Druzhinin Ria Novosti)

                               Under the plans Vladimir Putin would govern for two
                               more terms of six years each, until 2021

                               Russia’s parliament is rushing through plans to extend the
                               presidential term from four years to six, leading to
                               speculation that Vladimir Putin plans a dramatic return to
                               the Kremlin.

                               A constitutional amendment is to be fast-tracked through
                               the Duma, the lower house of parliament, which will vote
                               tomorrow on all three readings of the Bill. Deputies
                               usually take weeks to consider legislation over three
                               readings before passing it into law.

                               Dimitri Medvedev, the Russian President, proposed the
                               term extension in his first state-of-the-nation address last
                               week and submitted the Bill on Tuesday. The speed with
                               which the Duma is moving suggests a sense of urgency in
                               the Kremlin to have the reform put in place.

Mr Medvedev took office in May and has three and a half years of his term remaining.
Officials said that the extension would not apply to his current term, raising further
questions about the haste of the Duma.

An unnamed Kremlin adviser was quoted in Vedomosti, a daily business newspaper, last
week as saying that the reform was intended to restore Mr Putin to the presidency as early
as next year. He became Prime Minister after selecting Mr Medvedev to be his successor
in elections in March.

Under such a scheme Mr Medvedev, 43, would enact the amendment and some
unpopular social reforms. He would then resign and call a snap election in 2009 to make
way for his mentor to return.

Mr Putin, 56, would govern for two more terms of six years each, until 2021, allowing
him to fulfil the Putin Plan for the social and economic development of Russia.
Mr Putin fanned the belief that he is preparing for a comeback as president by pointedly
refusing to state who would be the first to benefit from a longer term.

“I support Dimitri Medvedev’s proposal. As regards to who can run for the next term and
when, it is premature to talk about this,” he said after a meeting with Matti Vanhanen, the
Finnish Prime Minister.

He added: “We are looking for instruments which would allow us to guarantee
sovereignty, to implement our long-term plans . . . and assist the development of
democratic processes in the country.”

There is no doubt that the Duma will pass the term extension because United Russia, the
Kremlin-controlled party, has a two-thirds majority, which is sufficient to make
constitutional changes. It will then go to the upper chamber, the Federation Council,
which can be expected to approve it just as quickly.

Mr Putin put himself at the head of United Russia’s electoral slate in parliamentary
elections in December last year, turning it into a referendum on his authority as the
“national leader” of the country.

Opponents noted at the time that local administrators were under pressure to deliver a
two-thirds majority for United Russia but there was no mention of any plan to reform the
Constitution. International observers condemned the election as undemocratic.

Sceptics have questioned whether Mr Medvedev, a law professor, would go along with
such blatant manipulation of the Constitution and the electorate.

The Kremlin official told Vedomosti that Mr Putin considered it unethical to change the
Constitution in office. The reform of Mr Medvedev, however, would create a pretext for
him to resign, claiming the need for voters to endorse it.

Mr Putin would then regain the presidency in a way that appeared to uphold the
Constitution. Since he remains popular, most Russians would be happy to endorse his
return.

Mr Putin may be impatient to take charge again because of the global economic crisis.
His popularity, which was boosted by soaring oil and gas revenues during his presidency,
could fall if he is still Prime Minister in a period of rising unemployment and shrinking
incomes.

By engineering his return to the Kremlin, however, Mr Putin will strengthen criticism
that Russia is sliding into dictatorship.
AIMING FOR THE TOP

1985-90 Vladimir Putin was KGB agent in East Germany

1994 Deputy mayor of St Petersburg

1997 Deputy of presidential administration

1998 Head of Federal Security Service

1999 Secretary of Security Council

2000 Elected President

2004 Reelected in landslide election

2008 Becomes Prime Minister

Source: Times archives

				
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