Even in 2018, when Vladimir Putin still had a full six years to serve as President of Russia, the political class around the Kremlin began to whisper about what comes next.
Some pundits referred to the problem as Operation 2024, the year when Putin would have to decide whether – or, more likely, how – he would remain in power after his final term runs out. That operation appeared to begin on Wednesday, Jan. 15, the day after Russians emerged from their long winter holiday.
In his annual state of the nation address in Moscow, Putin announced his wish to reform the Russian constitution. “I truly believe that it is time to introduce certain changes to our country’s main law,” Putin said. Shortly afterward the government resigned en masse, not in protest but seemingly to pave the way for these reforms.
The changes Putin proposed would not blow up the edifice of Russian democracy; the president’s best-considered moves tend to be more subtle and circumspect than that. What he suggested instead is a revision of the constitution that could, in effect, give him more flexibility, rewire the ticking clock of his last presidential term and provide him with a range of options for remaining the leader of Russia, regardless of what formal title he chooses to hold in the future.
The details of his plan were vague and in many ways confusing, though their significance was not lost on those close to the Kremlin. “You wanted a bloodless revolution?” tweeted one of Putin’s favored messengers, Margarita Simonyan, who leads the RT television network. “Here you go.”
It may be bloodless, but Wednesday’s revolution still had its victims. The clearest one appeared to be Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the President’s perennial sidekick and political stunt double, who has been carrying water for Putin since the two were both provincial officials in the 1990s in the mayoralty of St. Petersburg.
After Medvedev announced he and his government would stand down, Putin then graciously suggested that the outgoing Prime Minister take a newly created post: Deputy Chairman of the Kremlin Security Council overseeing national defense. Fancy as that may sound, it was an obvious demotion for Medvedev, who at least within the formal hierarchy of the state has been second only to Putin for the last eight years.
The sudden vacancies inside the government set off a frenetic debate in Russia about who would fill the next cabinet. But in a system where all the power has been gradually concentrated in the hands of one man over the last two decades, any speculation over government posts has barely any consequence. More than anything, it felt like a useful distraction as Putin begins to enact his plan for 2024.
The obscure institution that came into the foreground amid Putin’s announcement on Wednesday was the State Council, which the President created during his first year in power in 2000. Made up of regional governors and other officials selected by Putin, the Council formally serves as an advisory …read more
Source:: Time – World