Moscow – Russia
Russia’s State Duma has ratified a Bill that may give Russian President Vladimir Putin a permanent post in the powerful Federation Council for life. Putin has previously indicated he may stand down at the end of his current term.
The new legislation, which passed its first reading on Tuesday, states that “a President of the Russian Federation, after terminating his powers due to the expiration of his term of office, or his resignation” would automatically be granted a seat on the body, which also includes two representatives from each political division of the country. The president will also be able to appoint up to 30 senators, some for six-year terms, and others for life, to the council.
Membership of the Federation Council guarantees politicians immunity from prosecution. A second Bill has also been introduced that would strengthen the immunity of former presidents, regardless of whether they still play a role in politics and even covering their activities prior to taking office.
The rules would also apply to the only other former Russian President still alive, Dmitry Medvedev.
Similar moves have previously been interpreted in Russia and abroad as possible preparations for a power transition, with Putin having implied that he could step down from the top job in as little as three years.
In July, however, Russian voters backed proposals put forward in a national referendum that would enable the president to serve another successive six-year term if re-elected in 2024. While the State Duma had approved these measures, Putin insisted that they be put to the public, who supported the package of changes with a 78 percent majority. Other measures include the introduction of a minimum pension and a formal ban on same-sex marriage.
Earlier this month, UK and US news outlets including the New York Post and the Mail Online were whipped into a frenzy by claims from a notorious conspiracy that Putin had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and was preparing to quit the Kremlin. Valery Solovey, the one-time political scientist behind the supposed revelations, had made similar claims in 2016 and 2017, as well as boasting he was a member of a shadowy, all-powerful secret organization.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov firmly rejected the claims at the time, telling journalists that “Putin is not going to resign – he is in excellent health.