Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, right, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Medvedev Extends Term Limits, Possibly Revealing Putin’s Aspirations

December 30, 2008 05:19 PM
by Josh Katz
As Russian President Dmitry Medvedev approves a term limit expansion, some analysts think Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is gunning for a second stint as president.

Medvedev Passes Term-Limit Expansion Law

On Tuesday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed into law a measure increasing the term limits for president from four to six years, fueling speculation that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin could seek out the presidency soon, the Associated Press reports.

The signing marks the first time Russia’s constitution has been amended in its 15-year history, according to the Los Angeles Times. The new legislation, which was rapidly approved by the parliament and Russia’s provincial legislatures, will go into effect after Medvedev’s four-year term is up in 2012.

The Russian constitution forbade Putin from running for a third consecutive term, and many analysts believe that he tapped his protégé Medvedev for the position as a placeholder until he could run again, AP reports. Medvedev won the election in March, and Putin soon became the prime minister and head of the United Russia party, which controls Russia’s lower parliament, the Duma.

Reactions: The law’s implication for Putin; opposition to the legislation

The fact that Medvedev signed the new law so early in his presidency might suggest “that his term could be cut short to allow Putin to return to the Kremlin,” according to AP. But some analysts say that the popular Putin would probably have to move forward with such plans quickly, before the country’s financial crisis diminishes his public image.

The legislation has generated criticism in Russia despite the support of the legislatures. The pro-democracy opposition Yabloko party took issue with the speed with which it passed, contending that a 1998 law on constitutional amendments says that regions need a year to deliberate on amendments, and Medvedev first proposed the change on Nov. 5. Furthermore, “Another clause says the upper house should confirm the votes by the regions in its first meeting after that year has passed,” The Washington Post writes.

But Sergei Mitrokhin, chairman of Yabloko, expressed doubt that the government would reconsider the law. “The issue has received limited coverage in the Kremlin-controlled news media, and the party’s lawyers have concluded that there is no way to challenge the amendment in court if it is enacted,” according to the Post.

The term limit change joins a string of recent measures passed by the Russian government. The government has also spearheaded an expansion to the meaning of treason and the elimination of jury trials for certain offenses. “As economic turmoil spreads, many analysts are warning that the Kremlin will tighten its grip,” the Los Angeles Times writes.

Background: Presidential election revealed Putin’s grasp

Many believe the Kremlin controlled the election’s outcome; the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe refused to send observers to the March 2 election because of “severe restrictions” Moscow placed on the size and scope of the democratic process.

Putin had been Medvedev’s political mentor for several years before the election. He condoned the elections in March and endorsed Medvedev, and the candidate pledged to “supplement and develop” Putin’s programs. Many wondered if Medvedev’s election would be little more than a means for Putin to retain power. Putin’s ascension to prime minister soon afterward did little to quell those suspicions.

Most Recent Beyond The Headlines