The speaker of Russia’s parliament raised the possibility of changing the constitution as speculation grows that the Kremlin is considering ways to allow President Vladimir Putin to remain in power beyond the end of his current term, when current law requires him to step down.
“This is about the transfer of power,” said Gleb Pavlovsky, a political analyst and former Kremlin aide, according to Bloomberg. “Putin encourages this game, dropping ambiguous hints.”
The comments from Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the State Duma and a top member of the ruling party, at a scripted Kremlin meeting with Putin late Tuesday were vague and didn’t mention succession. But analysts said they showed the authorities already are preparing the ground for changes before the end of Putin’s current term in 2024.
“There are questions in society, esteemed Vladimir Vladimirovich,” Volodin said, addressing Putin in the respectful form, according to a Kremlin transcript. “This is the time when we could answer these questions, without in any way threatening the fundamental provisions” of the constitution, he added. “The law, even one like the Basic Law, isn’t dogma.”
He proposed involving Constitutional Court judges and other legal experts in an effort to look at “how the Constitution and the norms of development of the Constitution suit the tenets that were passed.”
The official transcript doesn’t include any mention of Putin’s response to Volodin’s proposal. The Kremlin’s tight control over the political system would make it easy to approve constitutional changes if Putin backed them.
“There’s no position on this issue yet” at the Kremlin, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday when asked about Volodin’s comments, adding that no work is underway on possible amendments at the moment.
When he was reelected to his current six-year term in March, Putin said, “At present I don’t plan any constitutional reforms.” He brushed off a question about whether he might run again in 2030, as allowed by current law. “What am I going to do, stay until I’m 100 years old? No.”
But speculation over the possibility of amendments continues. Earlier this month, Putin said the constitution is “not some fossilized legal construct but a living, developing organism.” At his annual press conference last week, Putin said any changes to the Basic Law are “a matter for broad civic discussion,” though he wasn’t specifically asked about amendments to allow him to remain in power.