Moving quickly, Putin submits reform plan to lawmakers

Moving quickly, Vladimir Putin submits reform plan to lawmakers

Vladimir Putin with New PM Mikhail Mishustin. AP/PTI

President Vladimir Putin moved quickly on Monday to push through an overhaul of Russia's political system that has fuelled speculation he plans to hold on to power when his term expires.

Less than a week after announcing the reforms, Putin on Monday submitted a bill with the package of constitutional amendments to lawmakers.

The bill, available on the website of the lower house State Duma, proposes a series of changes that would transfer some powers from the presidency to parliament and other state bodies.

Putin announced the changes in a state of the nation address last Wednesday, prompting the government to quickly resign.

Critics say Putin is putting forward the reforms in an attempt to secure a position for himself after 2024, when his fourth term in the Kremlin is due to expire.

The draft was presented just days after a group of experts and popular figures was set up to study the proposals and before a public vote on the amendments that Putin promised last week.

The reforms include giving parliament the power to name the prime minister and limiting the president to only two terms in total, instead of two successive terms.

They will also strengthen an advisory body known as the State Council, where some say the 67-year-old Putin could stay on in a powerful new role.

The proposals have drawn fierce criticism from Russia's opposition, with top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Monday accusing Putin of wanting to remain "leader for life".

"No one the heck knows what Putin is going to pull off to remain in power forever," Navalny said before the amendments were submitted to parliament.

"Moreover, I am completely sure that Putin, too, does not fully understand what he is doing."

Navalny's ally Ilya Yashin said earlier Monday he and other opposition leaders wanted to stage a major rally on February 29 to protest against Putin's proposals.

"It will possibly be the most important opposition protest in recent years," Yashin wrote on Facebook.

Shortly after it was presented, State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin sought to deflect criticism lawmakers were acting too quickly.

"If we work half-heartedly, you criticise us," he told reporters. "The president delivered the state of the nation address, everything was clearly laid out and today we received the legislative initiatives... What should we do, shelve it?"

Putin's reform announcement last week was a surprise and followed by the resignation of longtime prime minister Dmitry Medvedev.

He was replaced the next day by Mikhail Mishustin, the little-known head of Russia's tax service.

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