A long-standing figure of power in Russia, current president Vladimir Putin, proposed sweeping changes to the nation’s constitution on Wednesday. The proposal, for reasons not entirely understood at this point, prompted the resignation of the entire government with exception of the prime minister, long-time Putin ally Dmitry Medvedev will move to a post in a cabin which advises the government. The Russian government has a president and prime minister but the president has decidedly more power in Russia.
Putin is widely seen as basically an independent ruler – the representative assembly, known as the Duma, has very little real influence at present. The constitutional changes would shift executive power from the president and distribute it to the PM and the Duma, theoretically weakening the presidency and bolstering the representative aspects of the government. It would also limit the president’s tenure to two consecutive terms. The proposed measures will come up for a national popular vote sometime this year, so the vote of the people will ultimately decide if the changes go in to effect.
The response from the Political Left has been skepticism of Putin’s motives. Putin has been the stand-in figure of evil for the American Left since 2016. It follows that all of his actions are treated, perhaps rightly so, with a degree of mistrust. Putin’s reshuffling of the government is nothing more than a power grab under the guise of reform. It follows then that he must be reducing the power of the presidency in the future so that he will be able, from the shadows, to control the next Russian president, whoever that may be. The New York Times lays out six takeaways from the proposed changes while Vox’s Jen Kirby sees it in even starker terms – Putin wants power and will do anything to keep it.
“Putin’s plan for staying in power past 2024 “has been in the works for years,” Alina Polyakova, president of the Center for European Policy Analysis, told me. “It’s not a power grab, it’s a plan to ensure that Putin de facto remains in power for life. Vox
The mainstream right is interpreting Putin’s actions in a similar manner as the Left, Fox News observed that Putin’s actions straightforward and aimed at maintaining his “rule.” Others hope there’s a different motive. An article from the Christian Science Monitor theorizes more than a blunt power grab, and stresses the potential for hope in these changes for the Russian people – that Putin may in fact be returning some of his autocratic power back to the people after 20 years.
“For many Russians, the changes proposed also come with a glimmer of hope that a peaceful transition from one leader to the next may be possible – something that has traditionally been fraught with instability and intra-elite conflict over Russian history. And while the constitutional change will ensure Mr. Putin’s continued influence, it opens the door to a Russia ruled by representative government, rather than autocrat.”
On the libertarian side, the financial news site Zerohedge posted an opinion piece that suggests the move is about reclaiming Russia from the grip of the west. It details how the larger context of the near-total destruction of Russian society in the wake of the fall of the soviet union and Putin’s aims have been to rebuild the nation and are culminating in restoring a national will to rule once more.
“This is the early stage of this much-needed overhaul of Russia’s constitutional order and the neocons in the West are likely stunned into silence knowing that they can no longer just wait Putin out and sink their hooks into his most likely successor.” ZeroHedge