Putin’s speech to the Russian parliament Tuesday seemed to be one of his most sincere: he argued that stable leadership is good for a country in turbulent times but does it mean we’ll really see him in power beyond 2024.
Putin said Tuesday that he will seek a new term when his current one is up “only if it’s approved by the Constitutional Court and if citizens support such a proposal” when they vote for constitutional amendments on April 22.
He addressed the issue during a speech in parliament after MP and the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, called for his tenure to be reset so that he would be eligible for two more runs before being subject to the new restrictions, envisaged by the amendments.
The changes to Russia’s principal law, among other things, include redistributing some powers away from the president to the parliament, banning state officials from having foreign citizenship and setting the minimum wage above the basic cost of living.
‘Trolling the West’
Putin is currently in his fourth term as Russian president, but he did not skirt the rules of the constitution to do it. He was the head of state first between 2000 and 2008 before switching to the position of prime minister for the next four years. He then successfully ran for president again in 2012 and has remained in the job since.
Under the current Russian Constitution, the president is restricted to two consecutive terms — and whether Putin will seek another term has intrigued Russian and foreign political analysts for years. There were many of those in Russia and abroad, who slammed his rule as “a regime” and wanted him out, but there were also plenty of those, who considered him “the best among the current world leaders” and called for him to stay in power.
“It’s a very delicate trolling of our Western partners,” Aleksey Mukhin, the head of the Centre for Political Information said, commenting on Putin’s words about the possibility of running again in 2024. The very announcement of the planned constitutional amendments earlier this year caused a frenzy in the mainstream media — and was swiftly interpreted as Putin attempting to retain his grip on power.
Mukhin reminded that the president has said many times that he would not run in 2024, but “he left such an opportunity open for himself so that our Western partners remain on their toes.”
“It’s a very slick move, which will cause a strong negative reaction that will, however, be absolutely in vain.”
Many in the West would, of course, be angry if Putin remains in office after 2024, despite the fact that this move will likely stabilize the situation in the international arena, political analyst, Dmitry Babich, suggested.
“Putin is consistent. It’s clear what he’s going to do. If you look closely – all of his harsh moves in recent years were only a response to even harsher moves by the West… not crisis situations created by Moscow,” Babich said.
Crimea’s reunification with Moscow was a reaction to the coup in Ukraine in 2014 and would’ve been impossible without it. As for the deployment of Russia’s forces to Syria, it happened only in 2015 when the West had been supporting the anti-government militants there for four years, he said.
Babich pointed out that Russia has both friends and foes in the West and “we’re not talking about certain countries of political parties – the border lies between the pragmatics and ideologists.”
‘It doesn’t mean he’ll actually run’
The pragmatists have a clear understanding that Russia has no plans to destroy the West and are closely working to mend relations, which is something they want as much as Moscow.
But the ideologues will “go crazy” if Putin is reelected because they “view Russia as a reactionary state and a potential enemy,” which rejects the feminist ecology-minded society that they’re building in the West, Babich said.
However, even they may start making offers of compromise if they realize that Putin is here to stay and that they won’t be able “to break Russia in the coming years.”
The head of the Moscow-based Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies, Dmitry Badovsky, clarified that the vote on April 22 wasn’t actually about prolonging Putin’s presidential term, but only about amending the constitution.
Putin running for office again is only a distant prospect. “Him realizing the opportunity of being elected again depends on many things, including the situation within the country, the developments in the international arena and his personal aspirations.”
But Badovsky warned Putin’s critics in West that they themselves may unwillingly promote his new term through their aggressive policies, which will only increase a demand for a strong leader in Russian society.