Despite what American and European commentators may think, there really is a deep desire among people to vote for their own sovereignty. And that impulse was on full display last week with the announcement of the results of Russia’s public vote to approve the changes to its constitution.
The final tally put the vote at 78% in favor with a 65% voter turnout for the referendum. These are the most sweeping changes to Russia’s constitution since it was ratified back in 1993, which vested the President with immense power.
And while the final package of reforms differed in one important aspect from the original one – allowing for a president to serve more than two ‘consecutive’ terms – the over-arching theme of the changes was to devolve power out of the presidency putting more power in the hands of the elected representatives in the Duma.
The president’s cabinet is to be drawn from the Duma rather than the appointed by the president, while the State Council has been officially added to the constitution which can implement presidential edicts directly to the regions. In effect, there is now a greater balance (and tension) between these various branches of government as the president loses control over appointing his cabinet but strengthens his ability to bypass the elected parliament.
What was clear at the outset of this process was that Putin was trying to prepare his succession while minimizing the potential for another ‘foreign puppet’ to wield the immense power of the Russian presidency, as it was under Boris Yeltsin.
Putin was looking to retire in 2024, at 71, with an eye of maintaining a strong presence in Russian politics by leading the Security Council, which with these reforms has a more direct role in shaping military and diplomatic policy than it did before.
Back in December I did a podcast with Alexander Mercouris of The Duran where we discussed these potential changes in detail (which pre-dates the changes to the president’s term limit) which I think is important to review at this point since the changes are now law.
No matter what political perspective you come from there will be valid criticisms of these changes seeing the potential for abuse,