The State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament on Wednesday gave its definitive and overwhelming approval to constitutional changes that allow President Vladimir Putin to stand for re-election beyond 2024, something the current constitution forbids.
The bill, which includes 390 changes to the constitution, expands the authority of Russia’s parliament and Constitutional Court, bars officials from holding foreign passports and residence permits and ensures the supremacy of the Constitution within Russia’s legal system. Besides, it adds a reference to God to the Constitution and enshrines the role of Russian as the language of a state-forming ethnic group.
A total of 383 lawmakers voted in favour of the bill, and no one voted ‘no.’ As many as 43 legislators abstained from voting. Other parliamentary factions supported the document.
State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin told reporters that "these changes are necessary given today’s challenges and society’s demands." "What remains unchanged - and the president has repeatedly emphasized it - is the basic principles and values of our Constitution, enshrined in Chapters 1, 2 and 9," TASS quoted him as pointing out.
During a State Duma session on the constitutional amendments on March 10, Valentina Tereshkova, a 83-year-old former cosmonaut, now a Duma deputy, proposed adding another change to the list: resetting presidential terms to zero after the constitutional amendments are passed to allow Putin to run for president again. “This would be a stabilising factor for our society,” she said.Following Ms Tereshkova’s speech, Mr Putin quickly arrived at parliament to address MPs and supported the idea.
The changes backed by the State Duma on Wednesday will now be reviewed by other parts of the Russian legislative branch, including by the Federation Council (the upper house of parliament), later on Wednesday. No opposition is expected.
A nationwide vote on the proposed amendments is set for April 22. Ahead of the national vote, it will be reviewed by Russia’s Constitutional Court. If the constitutional court gives its blessing to the amendment and it is backed in a nationwide vote in April, Putin could serve another two back-to-back six year terms.
With reporting by TASS, Reuters