Date: 30 September 2019

Ways to Keep Putin in Power

A new voice in favor of changing Russia’s constitution. This time, in a press interview, this idea was supported by Sergey Chemezov. The head of Rostec, a state-owned mega-corporation, and Putin’s former KGB comrade, is considered to belong to a close circle of the president’s co-workers and friends. His statement means that the subject of constitutional changes that could keep Putin in power is still being discussed at the top governmental levels. The speech of Chemezov, previously unknown for such actions, also signalizes a possible conflict escalation between various interest groups in Putin’s environment.


Russia’s constitution allows one person to serve for no more than two consecutive terms in office. Currently, one term of office is six years (and used to be four years in the past). Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012, so his second consecutive term of office will end in 2024. In October 2018, in an article published by the government-owned newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the Chairman of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation Valery Zorkin wrote that the Basic Law adopted under Boris Yeltsin (1993) is already outdated and no longer responds to the challenges of modern times. In January 2019, during a meeting in the Kremlin, the Chairman of the State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, addressed Putin directly, saying that it might be time to start discussing changes of the constitution. Volodin got back to the matter in July in a text published in a parliamentary newspaper – where he even published detailed proposals for solutions. In his opinion, the Duma should be permitted to participate in the government formation. This may mean that Putin would retain power by becoming Prime Minister and leader of the ruling party (and, at the same time, the powers of the president would be limited). In short: the chancellery system.

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It seems that Russia is flying a kite. Putin himself does not want to admit all this. On the contrary, after his re-election in March 2018, he declared that he “was not currently planning any constitutional reforms.” For this reason, other political actors (Zorkin, Volodin, Chemezov) are making such cautious demands – certainly with the awareness and prior consent of the president. Of course, if changes to the constitution are to be introduced (which seems to be nearly evident), a procedural question should be posed: in which role would Putin continue to govern Russia? It seems that lifting the legal limitation on the number of terms of office would be too easy. Perhaps, then, Russia’s constitution will include a new position (or body) designed for Putin who, thanks to which, could get even more power than granted to his current role. It is also possible that an already existing body will simply be given more authority. Perhaps it is also about making Putin’s rule no longer dependent on elections. It is possible that the government will only have two years to make these changes. If the ruling party United Russia loses support after the elections to the Duma in September 2021, it may turn out that the parliament has not enough votes to build a constitutional majority.

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