Imagined Futures

29 Jan 2020

(Moscow-On-Thames) It’s been a while since a major Putin policy address has been anything other than boring. Not today. Today, Putin proposed a radical reshaping of Russia’s political system.

Kind of. 

Notwithstanding all of the various socio-economic and foreign policy statements (most of which are genuinely boring), the crux of Putin’s annual address to the Federal Assembly is what looks to be a reasonably sweeping constitutional reform. The really big one is a shift of government and ministerial accountability from the presidency to the parliament. Under the revised constitution, the Duma would select the PM and approve most ministers, and the president would be obliged to appoint them.

On the face of it, this would shift power from the presidency — which would now be strictly limited to two terms — to the parliament. As a result, a lot of people in Moscow (and elsewhere) are interpreting this as a sign that Putin will shift his power base in 2024. It’s more complicated and ambiguous than that, though. Despite the very important change to the formation of the government, the presidency will still retain control of the security agencies. He’ll have to ‘consult’ with the Federation Council to appoint them, but that’s a light touch. [...]

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