Russian government RESIGNS shortly after Vladimir Putin unveils reforms which would weaken the president’s successor and allow him to pull the strings after his term ends
Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev has today resigned along with his government as president Vladimir Putin tightens his grip on power.
The shock announcement came just hours after Putin unveiled a package of reforms which could help him stay in power after his term ends in 2024.
Putin wants to shift power from the presidency to the PM – which would weaken his successor and allow him to pull the strings as prime minister with no term limits.
The outgoing PM said Putin’s proposals would make significant changes to the country’s balance of power and so ‘the government in its current form has resigned’.
Medvedev is a veteran of Putin’s efforts to stay in power, having held the fort as president from 2008 to 2012 while Putin retained his influence as PM.
Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev has today resigned along with his government as president Vladimir Putin tightens his grip on power (they are pictured together today)
Dmitry Medvedev (pictured centre at Putin’s address to lawmakers today) resigned just hours after Putin unveiled a package of reforms which could help him stay in power beyond 2024
Possible candidates for the PM’s job include Sergei Sobyanin, the mayor of Moscow, Maxim Oreshkin, the economy minister, or Alexander Novak, the energy minister.
Whoever takes over will inevitably be seen as a contender for the presidency at the next election in 2024.
Medvedev announced his resignation on state TV sitting next to Putin, his former mentor.
Putin, who has been governing in tandem with Medvedev since 2008, thanked his former protege for his efforts but said the cabinet had ‘failed to fulfill all the objectives set for it’.
‘I want to thank you for everything that has been done, to express satisfaction with the results that have been achieved,’ Putin said.
‘Not everything worked out, but everything never works out.’
Putin has asked for the outgoing government to remain at work until a new government was appointed.
Medvedev said the government was resigning to ‘provide the president of our country with the possibility to take all the necessary measures’.
‘All further decisions will be taken by the president,’ he said.
Putin said Medvedev would take on a new job as deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, which Putin chairs.
Russia’s economic development minister Maxim Oreshkin (pictured), who has served under Medvedev and Putin, could be in the running for the PM’s job
Energy minister Alexander Novak, who has held the position since 2012, is another possible replacement for Medvedev
Sergei Sobyanin is also thought to be in the frame for the PM’s job. He has been mayor of Moscow since 2010 and is a member of the Putin-backing United Russia party
The 67-year-old Putin is due to step down as president in 2024 and the Russian constitution prevents him from running for a third consecutive term.
The Russian political world is already abuzz with speculation about how Putin might stay in power, although he himself has said almost nothing on the subject.
At his annual address to lawmakers today, he announced plans for package of reforms which could allow him to carve out a new role as a powerful PM.
Under the reforms, Putin’s successor as president would be stripped of the power to choose the prime minister.
Russia’s parliament – the State Duma – would select a prime minister and the president would not have the power to reject them, Putin said.
The changes would also give parliament the power to choose senior cabinet members, further weakening a future president’s authority.
However, the president would still be able to fire the PM – although Putin’s high approval ratings might make that politically infeasible.
Other changes would see the role of regional governors enhanced and residency requirements tightened for presidential candidates.
‘Of course these are very serious changes to the political system,’ Putin said in a speech today as he promised a referendum on the plans.
‘It would increase the role and significance of the country’s parliament … of parliamentary parties, and the independence and responsibility of the prime minister.’
Putin has been in power as either president or prime minister since 1999, longer than any other Russian or Soviet leader since Josef Stalin.
A former KGB officer, first took power as acting president when Boris Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned on the last day of the millennium.
Outgoing PM Medvedev is expected to stay on as part of Putin’s security council, Russian media says (the pair are pictured speaking in Moscow today)
Putin previously served as prime minister for four years while Medvedev was president (they are pictured together in Moscow in 2008)
After his first two terms as president ended in 2008, Putin circumvented the term limit by shifting into the prime minister’s seat while Medvedev served as president.
Putin was widely seen as pulling the strings under Medvedev, although they clashed over intervention in Libya in 2011.
In 2012 Putin returned to the top job and appointed the loyal Medvedev as prime minister.
The switch of jobs was widely seen as a cynical ploy and sparked massive protests in 2011-12 in a major challenge to the Kremlin.
Re-elected to a six-year term in 2018, Putin has seen his approval ratings fall to some of their lowest levels, though still far above those of most Western leaders.
Recent polls put Putin’s rating at 68-70 per cent, up a few points from a year ago but down from a high of more than 80 per cent at the time of his last election.
His loyalists in the United Russia party have also suffered dismal ratings and suffered badly in Moscow local elections last year.
Another option for Putin would be to merge Russia with Belarus – a process which has long been the subject of speculation – and become head of a new unified state.
Russia is Belarus’s closest ally and the two have formed a nominal ‘union’ with close trade and military cooperation.
Putin played down such speculation last year, saying there were no plans for a merger with Belarus.
Belarussian leader Alexander Lukashenko has been more blunt, saying last year that unification ‘was not on the agenda.’