Putin accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, his former ally and political partner who was once president. However, Medvedev will remain in Russia’s power structure as vice president of the Security Council, which has been compared to a vice presidency.
Less than three hours after Medvedev’s resignation, Putin offered the post of prime minister to Mikhail Mishustin, head of the Russian tax service.
The radical measures came shortly after Putin gave his annual address to Russian lawmakers and proposed important constitutional changes that included transferring more power to parliament, including the ability to appoint the country’s prime minister. Currently, the publication is selected by the president.
Putin also asked to “consecrate” the state council, an advisory body to the president, in what could be a way for him to maintain a significant influence in a different capacity once this presidential term ends in four years.
Medvedev’s resignation means that the entire ministerial cabinet is also outside, but it is expected to remain in place until a new government is formed. Putin also did not give immediate indications about the successor of Medvedev.
“For my part, I also want to thank you for everything that was done at this stage of our joint work, I want to express my satisfaction with the results that have been achieved,” the president said at a cabinet meeting.
“Not everything was done, but everything never works completely,” Putin said, without giving details.
Medvedev served as prime minister of Russia since 2012 and spent four years before as president in 2008-2012. He said the decision to resign was due to the fact that the constitutional changes, when approved, will affect the entire balance of the executive, legislative and judicial powers of the government.
“In this context, it is obvious that we as a government should allow the president of our country to make all the necessary decisions before that,” Medvedev added.
Andrei Kolesnikov, principal investigator and president of the Russian Policy and Political Institutions Program at the Carnegie Center in Moscow, described the events of the day as “absolutely unprecedented.”
“There has been nothing similar in the history of the Soviet Union or post-Soviet Russia,” he said.
Medvedev’s move to the Russian Security Council, surpassed only by Putin, has increased speculation that Putin might be looking to copy the path of a Soviet republic, Kazakhstan, on how to retain power beyond his presidency. Last March, the president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, resigned, but became president of the Security Council for life, which made him an effective power agent.
In his speech to parliament on Wednesday, Putin again suggested limiting the limits of the presidential term to two. That indicated that he will not attempt to seek a third consecutive term. He also established plans to transfer the power of the presidency to the lower house of parliament, a measure that erodes the influence of his successor.
“It’s about how to influence the prerogatives of the future president,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, director of a group of experts called R. Politik. “Putin would like to have some influence, some mechanism to control and get involved in case his successor makes mistakes or has some disagreements with him.”
After Putin served two presidential terms from 2000 to 2008, he changed the positions of Medvedev, which served a term. Medvedev was widely seen as a caregiver, which allowed Putin to retain power behind the scenes, but it was also believed that there was a gap between the two in the middle of Medvedev’s presidency. Putin assumed the presidency in 2012 and was re-elected last year.
Stanovaya believes it is unlikely that Putin wants to be prime minister again after his presidency, but both she and Kolesnikov said that presiding over a reinforced state council could be attractive to him.
“He doesn’t want to get involved in a routine social and economic policy, like the budget, it’s boring for him,” Stanovaya said. “He wants to focus on foreign policy, and I think the state council is much more convenient for him. But for that, he will have to turn it into a constitutional body and significantly expand its possibilities. “
Putin concluded his speech before parliament, which lasted a little over an hour, recommending that the package of amendments be approved by vote, with almost certain approval. He plans to sign a special decree that sets a date and the rules for submitting the changes to a vote, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to state news agency Tass.
Other constitutional changes included limiting the supremacy of international law, raising residency requirements for presidential candidates from 10 to 25 years, granting the Russian constitutional Court the right to verify whether the laws adopted comply with the constitution before being signed by the president , prohibiting public officials from having foreign citizenship and adding a provision to maintain the minimum wage and pension above the official poverty line.
“Our society is clearly demonstrating a demand for change,” Putin said at the beginning of the speech.
The annual speech to the main Russian officials and members of parliament focused mainly on how to improve domestic living standards. Putin opened with initiatives to improve the demography of Russia by proposing financial incentives for citizens who have children and then addressed the low salaries of teachers, increasing their monthly salaries by approximately $ 80. He also referred to medical care and environmental problems.
Putin’s approval ratings remain high, around 68 percent, according to a December Levada-Center survey, but has been gradually declining due to stagnant economic growth and unpopular movements in recent years to increase the retirement age and increase taxes on goods and services.
Kolesnikov suggested that Wednesday’s bomb could have been the way Putin tried to avoid “public discontent with his economic policy” with Russia’s economy largely stagnant and rampant corruption.
The state address of the nation was the first to be projected in several large buildings in Moscow. Putin also pointed out that the speech was unique as soon as it was delivered; Usually such speeches are given in February or March.
“We need to accelerate the achievement of the large-scale social, economic and technological challenges facing our country,” he said.
Natalia Abbakumova in Moscow contributed to this report.