‘Putin is postponing his holiday’: what political experts think of extending the presidential term

Six political experts and six different opinions

‘Putin is postponing his holiday’: what political experts think of extending the presidential term
Photo: kremlin.ru

Valentina Tereshkova offered to remove the ban on the number of presidential terms from the Constitution or extend the current president’s terms at a session of the State Duma on 10 March after amendments to the main law of the country were finally made. Realnoe Vremya finds out how political experts explain it and what they think about Putin’s several terms in a row in the near future.

“He is convinced of his uniqueness, he considers himself the best Russian leader in the last 200 years”

Campaign manager Konstantin Kalachev considers that Putin won’t necessarily run for the new election but he won’t permit himself to leave the country in the crisis

“The expansion of the term gives the president new opportunities, but it doesn’t mean that he will automatically stand for election. It is up to him to decide, and he will do it depending on the situation in the country, the political situation abroad, external economic factors, his desire, his health.

But leaving the country in the crisis clearly means crossing out all his previous effort to make history. How can he complete the job? Only by giving they country on a roll to an heir. And Putin obviously doesn’t want to turn into an outgoing president in advance. It would weaken his position — both inside the country and abroad in the big geopolitical game. And we should perfectly understand that the new Constitution will play a role of political testament for Putin. Consequently, it must be associated with him. In patriots’ opinion, Putin returned greatness and sovereignty to Russia, and this is what the new Constitution is reflecting. Its core assets are not only what he has done but also his huge popularity among the population. If he demonstrates he doesn’t meet his supporters’ request, his popularity will go down. Moreover, elites and most of the population want him to remain the president for life.

So, on the one hand, the Constitution is a political testament, and, on the other hand, Putin needs to solidify what he has already managed to do. This is why it is also important what will happen to the Russian economy further. And nobody will answer this question now. Nobody expected yesterday’s shock. And then a variety of factors will influence his decision, but everything turned on if he can tell himself that he has achieved what he wanted. He left himself an option.

For me it wasn’t a surprise for one simple reason: I think he probably would like to resign but considers now it isn’t high time. New problems, new challenges, new threats are everywhere. Now it is the fight with the Saudis in oil markets. This is why Putin is postponing his holiday. I think he assumes he won’t an everlasting president. But the situation doesn’t let him step down every time. Because he is convinced of his uniqueness, he considers himself the best Russian leader in the last 200 years and he likes when others share this conviction.

“There won’t be any fifth and sixth term for sure, even this one won’t be full”

Historian, political expert and opinion journalist Valery Solovey thinks that Vladimir Putin’s presidency will end faster than we think:

“The proposal to reset the presidential term has no value. It won’t become a reality, it is impossible due to objective restrictions. All this is said and done to show that the situation is under control. That’s to say, there won’t be any fifth and sixth term for sure, even this one won’t be full. The fate that is implacable, personal insuperable circumstances are a reason, though there is no new candidacy so far.”

“It is unlikely that the Constitutional Court will reject”

Yevgeny Michenko, director of the International Institute for Political Expertise, thinks that the Constitutional Court will allow resetting presidential terms, but Putin’s further presidency isn't the only option that can become real:

“At the moment we see that there has been created a possibility for Putin to run for the next term. More precisely, it is even a possibility of possibility because there are neither results of all-people voting nor a decision of the Constitutional Court. But it is unlikely that the Constitutional Court will reject, and I think that voters will unlikely have a negative decision. I suppose the majority will vote for the changes to the Constitution. Consequently, Putin can take advantage of this possibility and can not take advantage of it. There are four years ahead, this depends on many things. It wasn’t a surprise for specialists: such a decision was one of the options that was named among others. But even now all this doesn’t mean we have only one option.”

“All this is an attempt at stabilising the political system amid economically unpleasant events”

Andrey Bolshakov, doctor of political sciences, thinks that today’s political claims are a direct manifestation of instability in commodity and financial markets and they are aimed to stabilise moods in society.

“Firstly, it seems to me that financial instability and concern are the key factor that drives it all. Derailed talks with OPEC entailed a sharp fall in oil price and the collapse of our currency. So today we see a political reflection of what is going on in the economy. Because there is a line of stabilisation of the situation, and according to this line we should calmly live until 22 April and vote as the president hopes (and we will vote this way: data of all sociological surveys suggests it). But in the current situation, everybody starts to get nervous, and this is why unexpected political processes come about. Even the Duma opposition has broken down today: Fair Russia and the LDPR were ready to be reelected, but Zyuganov was abruptly against.

Tereshkova’s speech was similar, I think. It hasn’t been for the first time: Klishas already claimed the necessity of resetting. And look at the president’s reaction: he firmly said that the Duma didn’t need to be reelected, neither did he support resetting — he cited the Constitutional Court. I think now it is an attempt at stabilising the political system amid economically unpleasant events. In politics, we see a reflection of what is going on in the economy. Now the president is trying to outsmart. It is unclear now what will happen next. We can just state that the political process is not quite boring now.”

“The system was so that Putin’s departure turned out simply impossible”

Boris Mezhyev, political expert, ex-editor-in-chief of Agency for Political News and Russian Magazine, docent of Moscow State University’s Faculty of Philosophy, thinks that amendments to the political process had to be made in a hurry having changed the initial scenario seriously. In his opinion, modern Russia turned out to have no option but Putin:

“I wasn’t aware of this process, but it seems to me there was another scenario first. There is a feeling that something changed. The appearance of the topic of the State Council and weakening the presidential potential, which was at first supposed, anyway had another scenario. It seems to me that a living political process imposed its real restrictions on what’s happening. What was designed on paper probably turned out unready for realisation in the head. The clanship regime in Russia is perhaps a reason for it.

It seems to me that the system was so that Putin’s departure turned out simply impossible. It isn’t the case of his love for power, a desire to rule forever. The case is that the system doesn’t tolerate another referee, this regime can’t tolerate another person. And there is almost no option: there is one person, he is respected, he is seen as a leader. Another person can’t come in — no matter who it is, even he or she is the most amazing person.

I understood it from the very beginning, and the option of Putin’s departure didn’t seem very real to me. To be honest, I expected greater power of the parliament. I hope we will see it as a result of the ongoing events, though this doesn’t foresee anything, and the topic of big presidential power is understood as “the president controls everything”.

But in the conditions of the almost lifelong president of Mr Putin, this topic of powerful parliament will disappear. It is hard to imagine how the situation will be resolved. Almost all protest forces will suddenly rise now. I think that the spring will be eventful. Plus, there is an economic fall: everything is happening when people fear for their future. It is quite an unfavourable time for such constitutional experiments. I doubt that the Constitutional Court will decide something. But we already see some forces coming together in Moscow. The country will be shaking soon, I suppose, a lot of what we wouldn’t like will happen.”

“We have understood for the first time that the Kremlin isn’t one power”

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Ilya Graschenkov, political expert, director general of the Centre for Regional Politics Development, thinks that “Italian presidency” is possible in Russia — with leaders’ reduced power:

“Today is life-changing for Russian politics. We have understood for the first time that the Kremlin isn’t one power. Those groups that initially fought for power after Putin, some systemic liberals and security officials, finally began to give open speeches. Démarche of the State Duma regarding the amendments, an attempt at imposing the scenario of an early election to the State Duma in exchange for loyalty has failed as well as a previous attempt at pushing the scenario of the State Council through.

Putin continues creating the fabric of his policy himself, but at the same time, he has to protect from still weak attacks. Meanwhile, all stratagems are urging to perform one simple task — to win the election to the State Duma with United Russia’s falling rating and leave Putin room for manoeuvre to be reelected as president for a new term. He can refuse it too, but he needs to have his hands untied. He will clearly remain in Russian politics forever, but as who?

Presidency is a guaranteed option unlike the abstract State Council or a post in the Federation Council and so on. However, presidential functions are too burdensome for Putin, this is why an option of “Italian presidency” by cutting some power (quick management) and expanding strategic functions is not excluded. To sum up, we know little about Putin’s plans for his System. Everything is taking place in the regime of a special operation, but it is important that we have seen today that other agents are joining it, players from “Kremlin towers” are appearing on the pitch, so politicisation is growing rapidly.”

By Lyudmila Gubayeva, Yekaterina Ablayeva