(MOSCOW) — Russia has announced the date of a national referendum on constitutional changes that could allow Vladimir Putin, now 67, to extend his time in office.
While Putin has remained in power, either as president or prime minister, since 1999, current laws prohibit the Russian president from seeking another term, preventing him from serving past 2024.
The proposed changes to the constitution could diminish the powers of the Russian presidency while boosting those of the prime minister, a position Putin held from 2008 to 2012 in between his second and third terms as president.
The changes are widely seen as an attempt by Putin to remain in office past 2024 by potentially beefing up the authority of non-presidential roles.
Some observers argue that the changes could allow Putin shuffle between the country’s top leadership posts, as he did in 2008. Another leading theory suggests Putin could revamp an obscure governmental body, the State Council, which Putin has said should now have a new role.
The Kremlin proposed the constitutional changes in January, provoking the resignation of Putin’s long-time prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev. Since then, the country’s parliament has worked rapidly to draft the leader’s suggested amendments.
Russian lawmakers are sorting through which of nearly 1,000 proposed amendments should appear on the upcoming referendum, now set for April 22. The chosen date is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Lenin, the Soviet Union’s first leader.
Some observers have criticized the rationale for picking members of the working group tasked with drafting the constitutional changes. One of the members of the committee, a two-time Olympic pole-vault champion, admitted to Putin that she had not read the constitution before her appointment to the group.
The April vote will be Russia’s first referendum since it adopted its constitution in 1993.
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