Vladimir Putin announced tax service chief Mikhail Mishustin, who has no political experience, would be his nomination to be the new Prime Minister after his loyal ally Dimitry Medvedev stepped aside

By Ian Horswill

Posted on January 16, 2020

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who has been running the world’s largest country since 1999, is constitutionally barred from seeking re-election in 2024.

The 67-year-old Putin said in his annual state of the nation address to lawmakers, governors, top officials and judges, that he proposed to amend the Constitution that would cut the president’s power in favour of parliament.

The constitutional reforms included giving the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, “greater responsibility” for the appointment of the prime minister and the cabinet.

Putin did not say if the proposal related to his personal plans, insisting that those changes would serve all Russians.

Several hours later, Russian state TV televised a meeting of the Russian government, attended by Russia‘s leader, when his loyal ally Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that the entire cabinet was stepping down.

“These changes, when they are adopted …. will introduce substantial changes not only to an entire range of articles of the constitution, but also to the entire balance of power, the power of the executive, the power of the legislature, the power of judiciary,” Medvedev said of his leader’s proposals.

“In this context …. the government in its current form has resigned.”

Putin then announced tax service chief Mikhail Mishustin, who has no political experience, was nominated to replace Medvedev, who has been prime minister for nearly eight years. Medvedev was appointed by Putin to a newly-created post of deputy head of the presidential Security Council, which Putin chairs, and which Putin stated would be given greater powers.

The moves shocked the sacked cabinet. Mishustin’s appointment will be ratified by parliament on Thursday and Putin will hand-pick a new cabinet.

Alexei Navalny, the most prominent Russian opposition leader, tweeted that his opponent’s speech clearly signalled his desire to continue calling the shots even after his presidential term ends.

“The only goal of Putin and his regime is to stay in charge for life, having the entire country as his personal asset and seizing its riches for himself and his friends,” Navalny said.

Independent analyst Masha Lipman told The Associated Press: “The goal is for the system to remain stable and for Putin to retain his grip on power and to remain what he has been throughout these 20 years — the most important politician in the country, the ultimate decision-maker, the uncontested unchallenged leader of no alternative.”

His proposals, which Putin suggested should be put to a national referendum, indicate it would give him the option of taking an enhanced role as prime minister after 2024 or a new role as head of the State Council, an official body he said he was keen to build up.