President Vladimir Putin has appointed the head of the tax service Mikhail Mishustin as the new Russian prime minister, the Kremlin said yesterday.
The 53-year-old Mischustin has worked in the government since 1998 and has been the head of the Federal Tax Office since 2010.
The Russian head of state made the appointment after Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s earlier resignation.
Putin proposed changes to the constitution that could keep him in power until well after his term in 2024. He emphasised that constitutional changes must be voted on in a nationwide referendum.
Medvedev resigned after Putin announced the proposed constitutional changes. Putin kept his long-time ally in the Kremlin’s leadership structure and appointed him to the newly created post of deputy head of the President’s Security Council.
The change sent shock waves through Russia’s political elites, who were considering Putin’s intentions and speculating about future cabinet appointments.
Medvedev has been prime minister for almost eight years. After Putin’s first two terms in 2008 ended, Medvedev was the placeholder president from 2008 to 2012 and appointed his mentor as prime minister, although Putin continued to exercise power. Under Medvedev, the constitution was changed to extend the president’s term from four to six years.
Medvedev said in television comments that he had to step down given Putin’s proposed change of government.
Putin proposed to amend the constitution so that the legislature could appoint prime ministers and cabinet members. The President is currently authorised to make these appointments.
“It will strengthen the role of Parliament and its parties, the powers and independence of the Prime Minister and all cabinet members,” said Putin to an audience of top officials and lawmakers.
At the same time, Putin argued that Russia would not remain stable if it were governed by a parliamentary system. The president should retain the right to fire the prime minister and cabinet ministers, appoint senior defense and security officers, and direct the Russian military and law enforcement agencies, he said.
Putin has been in power longer than any other Russian or Soviet leader since Josef Stalin, who was in charge from 1924 until his death in 1953. He will have to step down in 2024 after his term ends under current law restricting the president to two consecutive terms.
Observers speculated that Putin could remain in command by moving to the prime minister’s seat after heightened parliamentary and cabinet powers and reduced the president’s authority.
Political scientist Dmitry Oreshkin said Putin’s speech made it clear that he was considering the move to the Prime Minister.
“Putin is pushing the idea of maintaining his authority as a more powerful and influential prime minister as the presidency becomes more decorative,” said Oreshkin.
In his speech, Putin said that the constitution must also specify the authority of the State Council, which consists of regional governors and high-ranking federal officials.
Tatiana Stanovaya of Carnegie Moscow Center said Putin seems to be able to keep trying to pull the strings as president of the council and even take a new position before his term ends.
“It looks very much like Putin is preparing to leave the presidency, whether in 2024 or earlier, and is currently trying to create a security mechanism for his successor in the event of a conflict,” she wrote on Facebook. “Putin looks like he expects to become chairman of the state council, which will result in more powers and an important decision-making platform supported by the presidential administration, the government, and the governors.”
Other possible options are a merger with neighboring Belarus, which would create a new position for the head of a new unified state – a perspective that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has rejected.
Political scientist Kirill Rogov said Putin intends to remain in charge and to delegate powers to different branches of government.
“Such a model, which resembles the Chinese model, would allow Putin to stay in control indefinitely while promoting rivalry between potential successors,” Rogov said.
Putin served two terms as President from 2000 to 2008 before moving to the Prime Minister’s position for four years to meet the term limit. Medvedev kept his seat warm and resigned after only one term of office so that his mentor could take back the top position in 2012. During his tenure, Medvedev increased the presidential term from four to six years.
Although Putin was still in charge during the presidency of Medvedev, he was not entirely satisfied with his performance. In particular, he criticised Medvedev’s decision to give the green light to the Western air campaign over Libya in 2011, which led to the overthrow and murder of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Medvedev’s decision to step down after a term of office to put Putin back in the presidency sparked massive protests in Moscow in 2011-2012, which was a major challenge for the Kremlin. Some of Putin’s employees suspected Medvedev’s helpers to encourage the protests. In his speech, Putin emphasized the need to change the constitution so that it clearly takes precedence over international law.
“The requirements of international law and the treaties and decisions of international bodies can only apply in Russian territory as long as they do not restrict human rights and freedoms and do not contradict the constitution,” he said.— dailygamingworld.