MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law on Monday that allows him to potentially stay in power until 2036. This step formalizes constitutional amendments that were approved in a vote last year.
The July 1 constitutional vote included a provision to reset Putin’s previous term limits so that he could run for president twice more. The change was stamped by the Kremlin-controlled legislature, and the relevant law, signed by Putin, was posted on an official legal information portal on Monday.
The 68-year-old Russian president, who has been in power for more than two decades – longer than any other Kremlin leader since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin – said he would decide later whether to leave in 2024 after his current six-year term running again will end.
He has argued that resetting the term count was necessary to keep his lieutenants focused on their work, rather than “keeping their eyes on finding potential successors.”
The constitutional amendments also emphasized the primacy of Russian law over international norms, banned same-sex marriages and mentioned “a belief in God” as a core value. Almost 78 percent of voters approved the constitutional amendments during the week-long vote that concluded on July 1. The turnout was 68 percent.
After the vote, the Russian legislators methodically changed the national legislation and approved the relevant laws.
The opposition criticized the constitutional vote on the grounds that it was tarnished by widespread reports of voter pressure and other irregularities, as well as a lack of transparency and hurdles that hinder independent surveillance.
In the months since the vote, Russia has jailed the country’s most prominent opposition, Alexei Navalny.
The 44-year-old Navalny was arrested in January after returning from Germany, where he was recovering for five months from nerve agent poisoning, which he accuses the Kremlin. The Russian authorities have denied the allegation.
In February Navalny was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for violating the terms of his parole while recovering in Germany. The verdict comes from a 2014 embezzlement conviction, which Navalny rejected as fabricated – and which the European Court of Human Rights has declared illegal.
His team says Navalny lost a significant amount of weight during a hunger strike to protest poor medical care.