Russian legislators have given the final nod to a package of constitutional amendments proposed by President Vladimir Putin, which include giving sweeping new powers to parliament and tightening background checks on top officials.
During the third and final reading in the State Duma on Wednesday, parliamentarians passed the bill amending Russia’s basic law in a 383-0 vote with 43 abstentions – all MPs from the opposition Communist Party.
The amendments then went to the upper house – the Federation Council – where 160 members voted yes, while one objected and three others abstained.
The only member of the body who voted no was the representative from the Irkutsk region Vyacheslav Markhaev, of the Communist Party. Three more abstained – Lyudmila Narusova (Tuva), Vasily Ikonnikov (Oryol Oblast) and Valery Usatyuk (Khakassia). The latter pair are also Communist Party members.
Now the law will be sent to the regions for their consideration: It must be supported by at least two-thirds of regional parliaments, according to the rules.
Assuming this is successful, the Federation Council is set to meet again on Saturday to approve these decisions.
Once the complex list of procedures is completed, Putin must then forward the proposed changes to the Constitutional Court, which will have seven days to decide whether or not they are contrary to Russia’s principal law. If the court green-lights the bill, it’s scheduled be put to a nationwide vote on April 22, a one-off public holiday in Russia.
The constitutional amendments will come into effect if a majority of voters on the day support them. The president is then obliged to order the amended Constitution to be published, also setting the date when the entire document becomes valid.
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The amendments involve, among other things, shifting some presidential powers to the Duma, restricting the president’s time in office to two overall terms, going forward, and banning officials from having foreign citizenship. They also set the minimum wage above the basic cost of living, endorse traditional marriage between and a man and woman as solely legitimate and officially proclaim modern Russia the successor to the Soviet Union.