MOSCOW — Vladimir Putin set the stage to stay on as Russia’s president for potentially another 16 years, saying the Constitutional Court should decide whether lawmakers can scrap the constitutional term limit that prevents him from ruling beyond 2024.
“In principle, this option may be possible but on one condition — that Russia’s Constitutional Court give an official ruling that such an amendment wouldn’t run counter to the fundamental provisions of the constitution” Putin said Tuesday in an unscheduled speech before the State Duma lower house of parliament. He spoke in response to an earlier surprise plea by ruling United Russia lawmakers for him to stay on as president.
The court ruling — along with national vote in support of the plan that Putin also set as a condition — is all but certain to go the Kremlin’s way in Russia’s tightly-controlled political system. It opens the way for Putin, 67, to serve up to two more six-year terms that would take his rule potentially to 2036, even as he said he was formally against lifting term limits completely.
The president came to the Duma after Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin suspended debates on the Kremlin’s planned constitutional amendments, saying lawmakers wanted to consult Putin on the plan to lift the term limit. Earlier, Valentina Tereshkova, a respected United Russia lawmaker who was also the first woman in space, had urged support for the proposal, saying “Putin needs to be there — in case something goes wrong” amid global political and economic turbulence.
Putin, who is already the longest-serving Kremlin leader since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, has previously repeatedly rejected the idea of scrapping presidential term limits, including as recently as last week. His supporters, though, argue that constitutional changes currently being adopted mean that Putin’s existing terms shouldn’t count under the country’s new basic law.