Legislation a preparation for Putin’s lifetime rule

It has become clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin is seeking to retain real power even after his term expires in 2024. He will not be able to build stability by further continuing his high-handed rule.

The Russian parliament has approved legislation related to constitutional amendment. The revised Constitution will take effect after a national referendum on April 22.

The legislation has changed the current limit on the period of office as president from two sequential terms to a total of two terms, with a new provision added to reduce to zero the total number of terms served by the incumbent and previous presidents. This will enable Putin, whose current term is part of his four non-sequential terms, all told, to continue serving in the presidency for 12 years in two more terms from 2024 if reelected, meaning that he will remain in the position until the age of 83.

The State Council, an advisory organ for the Russian president, will be granted authority to decide on a basic policy regarding domestic and diplomatic affairs. Some observers have said that the amendment assumes a case in which Putin will leave office as president in 2024 and take up chairmanship of the council, thereby pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Putin proposed the constitutional amendment in January, taking the initiative in the move. It seems that he made a preemptive move to offer several options aimed at maintaining real power, before his unifying force declines when his departure from office approaches.

Installed as president in 2000, Putin said he would pursue the goal of achieving Russia’s revival as a major power, boosting his country’s nuclear capabilities and reinforcing his confrontational stance toward the United States. In 2014, he annexed the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine, continuing to change the status quo by force.

It is obvious that his hard-line approach toward other countries prompted Europe and the US to impose sanctions on Russia, leaving the country isolated, which has dealt a blow to its economy. Russia cannot be expected to achieve long-term growth unless it makes progress in mending ties with these nations.

Question Moscow’s motives

Another issue facing Russia is the need for it to reconsider its economic structure reliant on energy resources and its opaque economic management, in which industrial conglomerates close to the government have control over the key industries.

The revised Constitution has incorporated clauses that are directly connected to the life of the people, such as guaranteeing minimum wages and making it obligatory to regularly review the amount of pension payments. This seems to indicate Putin’s intention to conceal his aim of retaining power and making it easy to obtain a wide range of support for the constitutional amendment.

The Putin administration has continued to crack down on political forces and media organizations that are critical of the government while also reinforcing his control. At home, there is a smoldering discontent about his longtime rule. It is wrong to turn people’s attention away and try to dispel their sense of helplessness through the amendment.

The revised Constitution has banned the distortion of historical facts concerning World War II. Russia has asserted that the northern islands became part of its territory as a result of the war. Japan-Russia negotiations over a bilateral peace treaty on the northern territories may undergo further difficulties.

The revised top law also includes a provision that prohibits talks over territorial cession that do not include discussions of national border demarcation with adjacent nations. The Japanese government must question Russia about its true motives behind this.