Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his cabinet members have presented President Vladimir Putin with a collective resignation request. The announcement was made following Putin's annual State of the Union address on Wednesday (15).
In his speech to parliamentarians and officials, Putin proposed deep political reforms that would increase the powers of the parliament, which would become responsible for the appointment of the prime minister. Currently, the Russian Prime Minister is appointed by the president.
The Russian leader also suggested an amendment to the constitution to place a limit of two terms in total on the office of president. Currently, the limit is for two consecutive terms.
Putin defended calling for a national referendum to approve the reforms – which would have the effect of weakening the presidency and making the prime minister's parliament and cabinet more influential. It would be the first referendum since 1993 in the country.
There is little expectation that the Russian leader will withdraw from public life in the near future. The proposals were widely considered a Putin maneuver to maintain power after the end of his current term in 2024.
"The main result of Putin's speech: that idiots (or cheaters) are those who said Putin would leave in 2024," quipped Russian activist Alexey Navalny, one of Putin's main critics, in a post on Twitter.
"These changes, when adopted, will bring about significant changes not only in several articles of the Constitution, but also in the balance of power in general," Medvedev said in a meeting with Putin. He justified his resignation by saying that his departure will provide space for the president to move forward with the reforms.
Within hours of Medvedev's resignation, Putin appointed new Prime Minister Mikhail Mishutin, a relatively unknown government figure who served as head of the Federal Tax Service. The appointment still depends on the approval of the Duma, the lower house of Parliament.
Medvedev will serve as vice president of the Russian Security Council and will still have a lot of influence in this position, which did not exist until then. The chairman of this council is Putin himself.
Putin would be setting the stage for the transition by 2024. According to analysts, the Russian president is expected to step down but retain power in a more reinforced position as prime minister or on the State Council.
Putin's role after 2024 has long been a subject of debate between Russians and observers. Elected for his fourth term in 2018, Putin cannot run again after leaving office under the constitution. But nothing prevents him from becoming prime minister.
Putin's reelection for a third term in 2012 came after he served as prime minister for four years, which allowed him to try to return to the presidency.
Some analysts noted that the resignation of the Russian prime minister may have been the result of a plan put in by Putin and carried out by Medvedev, which has already helped the Russian president retain power. When he switched places with Putin in 2008 and became Putin's successor in the presidency, Medvedev was considered by many to be a temporary president; among his duties, he would allow Putin to become president again after his tenure as prime minister.
"Medvedev is by no means an independent figure and did not create difficulties for Putin during his presidency. As it was in 2008, this looks like a mutual agreement between the two," Valeriy Akimenko, a Russian analyst for the Conflict Studies Research Center, told CNN .
After twenty years in power in Russia, Putin has suffered a decline in popularity, partly caused by unpopular pension reforms and a stagnant economy, although part of the population considers Putin a source of stability. The Russian leader also faced protests during the 2019 municipal elections and criticism of the prolonged period in power.
Content edited by: Helen Mendes