Update: This article was written in 2004, just as Vladimir Putin was nearing the end of his first term as Russian President. The constitutional amendment in the article below wasn’t approved, but Putin found a different way to remain leader of Russia – by standing down in favour of Dmitry Medvedev for four years. This reset the clock and he was able to run for election again and was still President of Russia in 2018 and beyond.
There has been a lot of speculation over the last few months about whether Russian President Vladimir Putin will push through a constitutional ammendment to allow him to run for a third term. The San Fransico Chronicle believes that the Duma will reintroduce a piece of legistation that was initially put forward in 2002, but has since been forgotten and gathering dust.
The legislation would extend Presidential terms to seven years (from the present five) but because, in effect, an entirely new presidency would be created, Putin would be running for the first time in 2004.
The committee that controls parliament’s legislative agenda, which scheduled the vote, called for lawmakers and others to suggest any amendments by next Thursday and to prepare for a vote this month — before the presidential elections scheduled for March 14, which Putin is widely expected to win.
Putin, predictably, is trying to distance himself from the legislation.
Putin, traveling in central Russia, said Thursday evening that he opposed the legislation but understood that its proponents were “guided by a desire to create more stable conditions for the country” and were supported by a “majority of the population.”
“This desire for stabilization must not lead to destabilizing the foundation of the state, the constitution,” he said.
The need for stability is, I think, the strongest desire among the general public in Russia right now. Putin’s repression of the media has left Russia in a position where there really is no credible challenger to Putin, and also no credible successor from within his own circle.
On balance, the Russian people seem to be taking a massive gamble that giving Putin a longer term will give Russia the stable foundations they crave. They want democracy also, and they aren’t willing to sacrifice it entirely, but see stability as the foundation on which Russian democray must be built, and are prepared to sacrifice some democratic accountability in the short term. The hope must be that, after Putin finally does go, the damage done to democracy in the name of stability will not be not too great to undo.
I wonder if I am the only one seeing comparisons with Chile?