15 January 2020   Leave a comment

The entire Russian government resigned today as President Putin pushed through government reforms that would enhance the powers of the President and the Parliament and reduce the powers of the Prime Minister and other governmental officials. The details of his proposed changes were not entirely spelled out, but some observers believe that Putin intends to remain the leader of Russia for life:

“He gave no details as to what that could mean. But the proposal led some observers to speculate that, after Putin’s term runs out in 2024, he could decide to take the helm of the State Council and effectively continue to govern Russia from there. ‘Putin looks like he is counting on becoming the head of the State Council, which will get increased powers and become a key decision-making platform with input from the Presidential Administration, the government and the governors,’ Tatiana Stanovaya, an expert at the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank, wrote in a Facebook post. In all but name, this newly empowered entity, with Putin at its helm, could then begin to function as a de facto Kremlin.”

Putin’s announcement caught government officials in Russia by surprise. One proposal for changing the constitution would be to elevate the power of the State Council, which is now an advisory committee. The BBC reports:

“One of the standout proposals is making the State Council a formal government agency enshrined in the constitution.

“At the moment it is an advisory body packed with 85 regional governors and other officials including political party leaders. It is so large that when it meets it fills a hall in the Kremlin.

“But Mr Putin clearly has designs on its future. One theory is that he could become a new, powerful leader of the State Council.”

Sputnik, a Russian media outlet that reflects the sentiment of the Russian government, described the move as a “democratizing” change:

“‘What we talk about there – is the classic democratic system with three pillars of government – judiciary, the government and executive’, says Ben Aris, political analyst, editor-in-chief of Business News Europe. ‘So he is talking about a classic democratic government. This is not what we hear normally in the press about ‘Putin’s Russia’ and his personal control. This is about constructing a long term stable political system with checks and balances where the bits of the government play the proper role as defined by the constitution which is not the case now’.”

Putin has been in power in a variety of offices for 21 years and his tenure has been somewhat rocky. He has accomplished many strategic goals in foreign policy, notably the invasion and annexation of Crimea as well as keeping Syrian President Assad in power after a nine-year civil war. But his domestic popularity has declined recently as he tried to push through pension reforms that many citizens oppose. The New Statesman assesses his current popularity:

“Oil prices have been more responsible for economic growth than astute policymaking, 20 million Russians live below the poverty line and incomes have declined for five straight years.

“Economic stagnation has been accompanied by recent political turmoil. The summer of 2019 saw widespread anti-government protests on the streets of Moscow, orchestrated by an increasingly resilient political opposition.

“After 20 years in charge, are the tides turning against Putin? When Putin first came to power, in 1999 as prime minister and then in 2000 as president, ordinary Russians were the least of his concerns. From the start, he focused on neutralising the elite: the governors and party leaders, the bureaucrats and, of course, the oligarchs. Putin quickly established a quid pro quo: if the elite forsook any attempt to block or resist his power, the regime would protect its wealth and influence.”

Putin follows the steps of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who persuaded the Chinese government to abolish terms limits opening the door for him to remain President for life. US President Trump has also broached the idea of being President for life.

Posted January 15, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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