Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken a surprise move, replacing his long-serving prime minister with a little-known technocrat and proposing constitutional amendments that would maintain his grip on power, after the end of his presidential term in 2024.
Russia’s leader used his annual state of the nation address to propose a referendum to endorse big changes to the country’s political system, including plans to curb the powers of the future president and boost those of parliament.
In an unexpected move, Putin said he wanted the Head of the Federal Tax Service, Mikhail Mishustin, to form the cabinet. Parliament will consider the nomination of Mishustin on Thursday.
Mishustin, 53, is not a celebrity and no one has spoken of him as a potential candidate for prime minister position. Many members of his government are also expected to be new faces.
Putin has been criticized for seemingly planning to stay in power.
The new constitutional amendments he proposed, would give him the option to play a role as prime minister after 2024 or to take a new role as head of the State Council, an official body he said he was interested in creating. He may also become president of a new parliament with super powers.
Under the current constitution, which limits the number of consecutive presidential terms at two terms, Putin, who is now 67, will be obliged to leave office in 2024 and never run again.
According to CNN report, in the last two years, Putin’s approval ratings have taken a dip, partly a result of unpopular pension reforms and a stagnating economy.
2019 was also riddled with street protests over municipal elections as Russia’s fragmented opposition expressed discontent with what they see as a president and the ruling elite that have overstayed their power.