Putin's bid to rule forever and what it means for the West

January 20, 2020 10:30
Vladimir Putin gestures as he speaks during his annual state of the nation address in Moscow on Jan 15. The Russian president unveiled plans to amend the national constitution to enhance the powers of the Duma. Photo: Bloomberg

Despite having four more years in his current term as the Russian president, it appears Vladimir Putin simply couldn’t wait to make preparations now in order to allow him to remain in power after his term of office is up in 2024.

Last Wednesday, Putin announced that he would seek to amend the Russian constitution in order to increase the powers of the Duma, under which the federal legislature will have a bigger say in the policy-making process, and, more importantly, will be charged with naming the prime minister.

In order to allow the proposed constitutional amendments to pass smoothly, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s long-time political ally, and the entire Russian cabinet, stepped down the same day.

Meanwhile, Mikhail Mishustin, former head of the country’s Federal Tax Service, has been named the new prime minister.

According to Putin’s explanation, his initiatives of amending the constitution and overhauling the government were intended to deliver governance that will stay in closer touch with public opinion and sentiment.

Nevertheless, most analysts believe the motives behind Putin’s constitutional shake-up could be to remove all the structural and personnel obstacles to his dictatorship so that he can continue to stay in power after 2024.

If Putin’s attempt to make himself the ruler for life succeeds, we can assume that his hostile foreign policy line towards the West, particularly the United States, which has been in force for the past 20 years, is not only likely to continue, but may become even more aggressive in the days ahead.

Despite being 67 years in age, Putin, who is known for being the master of Machiavellian maneuvers, is still in good shape. And chances are, he is very likely to secure the passage of his proposed constitutional amendment, thereby enabling him to remain in power for a long time.

If that happens, the US and its western allies will have an ever-present headache over the next decade or even longer.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 18

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal