Russian President Putin approves changes allowing him to stay in power until 2036

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday opened the door to constitutional changes that would allow him to remain in power until 2036, but said he favoured term limits once the country became politically “mature”.

Putin, who in January unveiled a major shake-up of Russian politics and a constitutional overhaul, is required by the constitution to step down in 2024 when his second sequential and fourth presidential term ends.

However, while addressing the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, he gave his qualified blessing to a proposed change to the constitution that would formally reset his presidential term tally to zero.

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“The proposal to remove restrictions for any person, including the incumbent president. In principle, this option would be possible.”

“But on one condition – if the constitutional court gives an official ruling that such an amendment would not contradict the principles and main provisions of the constitution,” Putin said.

He said U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt serving four terms because of the upheaval his country was going through at the time was an example of why presidential term limits were sometimes superfluous.

“In conditions when a country is experiencing such shocks and difficulties, of course … stability is perhaps more important and must be a priority,” he said.

He added that Russia was still recovering from the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. If, as Putin’s critic’s suspect, the constitutional court gives its blessing to the amendment and it is backed in a nationwide vote in April, Putin could serve another two back-to-back six year terms.

Were he to do that, and his health and electoral fortunes allowed, he could stay in office until 2036 at which point he would be 83. Kremlin critic and opposition politician Alexei Navalny said he believed Putin was now set to become president for life, while Navalny’s ally, Ivan Zhdanov, decried the move as tantamount to a constitutional coup.

Putin, 67, now had more room to maneuver politically, said Tatiana Stanovaya, a non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center. His stance handed him the option to run again in 2024 should he choose to do so and removed political challenges raised by what had been seen as his last term in the Kremlin, she added.

“The successor issue disappears. The issue of Putin as a lame-duck disappears,” said Stanovaya.

Opposition activists said they planned to protest against what some called a rewriting of the constitution in the interests of the ruling elite. One group said it had applied for permission to stage a demonstration on March 21.

A former KGB officer, Putin, who is serving his fourth presidential term and has also served as prime minister, has dominated the Russian political landscape for two decades.

President Putin has not spelled out what his plans for the future are, but he has said he does not favour the Soviet-era practice of having leaders for life who die in office.

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