To make mistakes is human, if only these mistakes are then admitted. Some time ago, I wrote about the possible obscure ways the Russian president could attempt to maintain his power and influence after his second term ends. The current constitution of Russia does not foresee a president serving more than two terms, so I looked at several possible solutions to that. I now admit – I was wrong. Putin and his servants chose the simplest and most brutal path of revising the constitution. In other words, twisting the legal foundation of the Russian Federation to serve the interests of a single individual.
One of the members of the parliament Valentina Treshkova, who represents the ruling party, suggested another amendment to the constitution that would reset Putin’s presidential terms, but only if permitted by the Constitutional Court. There were no surprises when these amendments were unanimously passed by the parliament. The draft law that will see roughly 390 amendments made to the constitution was passed in the State Duma with 383 to 0 with 43 abstentions. There were no votes against, Chairman of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin told journalists.
In the Federation Council, the constitutional amendments were backed by 160 senators, with one voting against and three abstaining. Now, the people will have to express their opinion in a vote scheduled for 22 April.
Other amendments to the constitution include guaranteed pensions and minimum wage, as well as giving the parliament the rights to propose prime minister candidates. The changes will also grant the president rights to remove supreme court judges and reject amendments passed by the parliament.
On March 12, 2020, Putin approved these amendments himself. And now Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov announced that his master, who previously denied he will attempt to amend the law to stay in power after his term ends in 2024, has now changed his mind because of a multitude of factors, including the spread of the new coronavirus, a possible global recession and regional conflicts. It should be noted that already in November last year a new body was established whose main task is to ensure the spread of propaganda in support of the amendments to the constitution proposed by Putin.
Chairman of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin expressed that Russia should protect Putin: “Our power lies not within our oil or gas, because as you see, the prices of oil and gas can fall. Our power lies within Putin, and we must protect him.”
Being aware of Russia’s characteristics and the announcements made, there is no doubt that the Constitutional Court of Russia will not object in any way, and the Kremlin’s propaganda will have convinced the Russian population that these amendments are necessary to ensure their social welfare. The other issues will not get much attention if any at all. What is crucial is that the public understands that in case of a positive vote they will benefit in some ways too. The date is significant as well, because it is the birthday of Lenin. Considering that many in Russia still long for the USSR, the choice of date is quite understandable.
On October 7, 2020, Putin will celebrate his 68th birthday. His fourth term as president will end in 2024, and if the constitutional amendments allow him to run for two additional terms, he will stay in power until 2036 or until the age of 84. That is, of course, if during this time the constitution does not see additional amendments to grant him another term or even take Russia back to its historical roots and become a monarchy.
Putin can already unofficially be called a tsar, and this is supported by Volodin’s statements about Putin being Russia’s key to success. The only thing remaining is to declare him a saint, because he has truly performed a few miracles.
What else can we conclude from all this, aside from the fact that everything has been done to ensure Putin remains president.
First and foremost, at this point Putin’s influence is undeniably enormous. Everything is happening according to his plan. If the constitution itself is being amended by Putin to maintain power, this undoubtedly is the case with lower level legislation as well.
Putin has become used to getting what he wants. He wanted Crimea – he took it. This is serious food for thought for Lukashenko.
Is there at the moment any force that can overthrow Putin? I don’t think there is, because Putin holds all of the power structures, leading politicians and government officials in his hand. This automatically means that no one else is allowed near the throne. This is evidenced by the regime turning against Navalny and other notable opposition figures. Therefore, any activities of some individuals or even small groups will be hastily suppressed.
However, bad news for Putin’s regime came from a completely unexpected direction. Oil powerhouse Saudi Arabia has intended to sell to Europe oil priced at 25 dollars a barrel, in addition to tripling the amount of oil delivered. To compare, Russian Ural oil is being sold at 32.25 dollars a barrel.
It is no secret that Russia profits from selling energy resources, and a large part of these resources are comprised of oil. What would Saudi Arabia’s decision mean for Russia? It’s simple – decreased income and an economic slump that would be felt by the majority of regular citizens. Experience has taught us that if the welfare of the public reaches a critical mark, they take to the streets.
If Putin and his clique is able to restrict the actions of some individuals and even small groups (several thousands of people by Russian standards), then in the case of wider unrest it would be impossible. We may end up seeing how oil, which once gave Putin his wings, will now eject him from his throne.
*Zintis Znotiņš is an Independent investigative journalist
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