Russian Govt. resigns

Russia’s government resigned in a shock announcement on Wednesday after President Vladimir Putin proposed a shake-up of the constitution.

The announcement by Putin’s longtime ally Dmitry Medvedev came after the president used his annual state of the nation address to call for a nationwide vote on a package of constitutional reforms.

The resignation raises deep questions about the long-term shape of Russia’s political system and the future of Putin, who is due to step down at the end of his fourth Kremlin term in 2024.

A few hours after the Russian leader’s address, Medvedev and Putin appeared alongside each other on national television to say the government was stepping down.

Medvedev said the constitutional proposals would make significant changes to the country’s balance of power and so “the government in its current form has resigned”.

“We should provide the president of our country with the possibility to take all the necessary measures” to carry out the changes, Medvedev said. “All further decisions will be taken by the president.” Putin thanked Medvedev -- who also served as Russian president for four years from 2008 -- expressing “satisfaction with the results that have been achieved.” The changes Putin proposed on Wednesday would transfer more authority to parliament, including the power to choose the prime minister and senior cabinet members, instead of the president as under the current system.

Other changes would see the role of regional governors enhanced and residency requirements tightened for presidential candidates.

“Today in our society there is a clear demand for change,” Putin said in his address. “People want development, they are striving to move forward in their careers, in their education, in becoming prosperous.” The package of reforms would be put to a national vote, he said, without specifying when.

“We will be able to build a strong prosperous Russia only on the basis of respect for public opinion,” the 67-year-old leader said.

Speculation has swirled about changes to Russia’s political system that would allow Putin to stay on after 2024.

Some have suggested he could remain as a prime minister with increased powers or in a powerful behind-the-scenes role.

It was unclear how, if at all, the constitutional changes could affect Putin’s future role.

But leading Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said he expected any referendum to be “fraudulent crap” and that Putin’s goal remained to be “sole leader for life”. - AFP

 



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