Vladimir Putin was reelected as president this past March amidst furious protests, marches and demonstrations. Polls have shown mixed reactions concerning the president, who originally served from 2000 to 2008. His first two terms, which were set at the traditional four-year term lengths, were followed by a mandatory four-year hiatus.
He abdicated power to his protege, Dmitry Medvedev, in 2008, whose administration successfully lengthened the presidential term to six years for every president after Medvedev. After Putin’s recent victory, he is guaranteed to retain power until at least 2018, but could be in the presidential seat until 2024 under current laws. Many protesters believe that Putin was reelected under false conditions but his administration has maintained innocence.
The Moscow Times reports this week that officials are now toying with the idea of lengthening the number of consecutive presidential terms one leader can take, which could potentially put Putin in power until 2030 or beyond.
Currently, presidents can only serve two consecutive terms, but because of the new six-year term, Putin can serve for 12 consecutive years completely legally. If the new legislation is drafted, it could mean serious changes to the way the presidency functions in Russia presently.
One chairman of the Duma’s Constitution and State Affairs Committee says that the legislation is not guaranteed to be legalized, stating to Ria Novosti, “It depends on how our system is working at the time.” The statement leaves the discussion on vague terms.
Putin’s government has been regularly condemned for its strict controls on citizens, demonstrations and civil rights. Multiple opposition leaders have been arrested after staging demonstrations in Moscow. Putin signed new sky-high fines into law this spring to discourage unsanctioned protests as well as making it illegal for LGBT activists to stage any events or speak out about sexuality or discrimination. Even internet privacy has been threatened by the current government, which wants to make a list of blacklisted websites that would be off-limits to citizens. Critics fear these steps may lead to a situation similar to China, where internet access is closely guarded.
Medvedev’s government had been cutting back on harsh punishments for such offenses as slander and protesting. Under the last few months since Putin’s inauguration, many of those policies have taken a decided shift towards greater control and limitations of civil rights.
The debate about term limitation extensions could continue into the next few years, but lawmakers have made it clear that it could be a possibility while Putin is still in office.
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