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Tuesday, 27 July 2021

What are Putin's constitutional reforms?

AFP , Monday 20 Jan 2020
Russian President Vladimir Putin. (AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin. (AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has handed his package of constitutional reforms to parliament days after he announced his intentions in a speech.

The amendments, which parliament is likely to pass speedily, are prompting speculation about what they mean for Putin's plans. Here are some of the main points.

- Two terms -

The constitution will limit the president to two terms in total rather than two successive terms. This loophole was used by Putin, who is now on his fourth term after serving one term as prime minister. His successor will not have this option.

- State Council -

One of the reforms calls for the president to form a State Council that will coordinate the activities of state bodies and define "the main trends of domestic and foreign policy" as well as "priority areas of social and economic development".

There is speculation that Putin could head this Council. A State Council already exists, including regional governors and party leaders, but it has not played an important role.

- Trumps international law -

A proposed amendment says that Russia's constitution takes precedence over any international rulings. If there is a contradiction, they will not be applied.

Russia could use this to justify ending its obligation to carry out rulings by international courts such as the European Court of Human Rights, which is currently the last resort for many Russians.

- No foreign passports -

There are also new limitations on who can serve in public office in Russia, ruling out those who have foreign passports or residence permits or have lived abroad for long periods -- from the president down.

The president must have lived in Russia permanently for at least 25 years.

Some have suggested this could be aimed at figures such as opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who spent time studying in the United States.

- More powers to parliament -

The president cedes powers to the lower house of parliament, which approves candidates for prime minister and ministers, whom the president then appoints.

However, the president appoints top officials and ministers in spheres such as defence, national security and internal affairs after consulting with the upper house of parliament.

Top judges and prosecutors are nominated by the president for approval by the upper house of parliament.

- Social benefits -

The reforms also include some aimed at ordinary Russians -- who will be asked to vote on the package as a whole. These include a guarantee that the minimum wage will be no less than the minimum subsistence level, while the state pension will be adjusted annually to inflation.

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