Russian lawmakers on Thursday, January 16; quickly approved the appointment of a new prime minister, a day after President Vladimir Putin kicked off an unexpected reshuffle of his inner circle; that could keep him in power well past the end of his term in 2024.
Mikhail Mishustin, the chief of Russia’s tax service; met with lawmakers from various factions in the State Duma ahead of the confirmation vote in the Kremlin-controlled lower house.
“We have all the necessary resources to fulfil the goals set by the president,” he said. “The president wants the Cabinet to spearhead economic growth and help create new jobs. Raising real incomes is a priority for the government.”
Mishustin succeeds Dmitry Medvedev, a Putin associate who was Russia’s prime minister for eight years. Medvedev resigned hours after Putin proposed sweeping changes to the constitution.
Medvedev served as president in 2008-2012; keeping the seat warm for Putin who continued calling the shots as prime minister when he was forced to step down from the top job due to term limits. Under Medvedev, the constitution was amended to extend the presidential term from four years to six; although it limits the leader to two consecutive terms.
Putin has kept his longtime ally Medvedev in his close circle; appointing him to the newly created post of deputy head of the presidential Security Council.
The reshuffle sent shock waves through Russia’s political elites; who were left pondering what Putin’s intentions were and speculating about future Cabinet appointments.
A constitutional reform that Putin announced in a state-of-the-nation address indicated; he was working to carve out a new governing position for himself after his current six-year term ends in 2024; although it remains unclear what specific path he will take to stay in charge.
Putin has been in power longer than any other Russian or Soviet leader since Josef Stalin; who led from 1924 until his death in 1953. Under the current law, Putin must step down when his current term ends.
Putin suggested amending the constitution to allow lawmakers to name prime ministers and also Cabinet members. The president currently holds the authority to make those appointments.
At the same time, Putin argued that Russia would not remain stable if it were governed under a parliamentary system. The president should retain the right to dismiss the prime minister and Cabinet ministers, to name top defence and security officials; and to be in charge of the Russian military and law enforcement agencies, he said.