Russia: forever Putin?

The Russian State Duma voted on Tuesday in favour of a constitutional reform which will be presented to the people in April. One clause included at short notice allows Vladimir Putin to circumvent the two-term limit as president: his previous terms are simply to be annulled. This paves the way for Putin to govern Russia until 2036. Commentators discuss how this will turn out.

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Ziare (RO) /

Supremo firmly in the saddle

Even after the reform the Kremlin boss is riding the wave of his popularity, writes political analyst Dorin Popescu on news site Ziare:

“Putin has no major image problems that could weaken his own project in either the long or the short term. His popularity ratings are still sky high, and he can improve them whenever he pleases with an approaching conflict that casts him as the 'all-powerful leader' again. There's also no real danger of palace revolts by rivals. ... The Russian population's appetite for democracy remains moderate and there will be no paradigmatic changes to the political and social conventions patented in Russia in the last few centuries.”

Kaleva (FI) /

The propaganda is working - for now

Putin's arguments no longer reach or convince the Internet generation - and this will have consequences, Kaleva says:

“Putin did his best to address reservations about the proposal in the Duma on Tuesday, saying that in his view an annulment of earlier terms would only be possible if the Constitutional Court approved it. It would be a historic surprise if the Constitutional Court were to contradict a model already accepted by the Duma. ... Such propaganda may work with older Russians, but is less effective with younger people who get their information about the world from independent online sources and international news sites. As a result, younger people no longer believe they can influence society, and in the long run this is damaging for the country.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Situation remains uncomfortable

The new dimensions of Putin's power pose a challenge for both Russia itself and for its partners, Le Monde comments:

“The Russian economy, mired in corruption, conformism and oil revenues, has never gained momentum under Putin's rule. The fact that he has now finally decided to draw on Russia's extensive reserves to invest for the people's benefit is due to his declining popularity. If he wants these investments to take concrete form, he must first reform the ossified system. The other challenge concerns Russia's partners: everyone wants to improve their relations with Moscow, but Putin has responded with the blockade of Ukraine, a cyber war, the bombing of hospitals in Syria, the paralysis of the UN Security Council and the rewriting of the history of the 20th century.”

Ekho Moskvy (RU) /

Russia can do without this kind of stability

Echo of Moscow's commentator Anton Orech is dismayed at the prospect of up to 16 more years of Putin:

“Now I have certainty for the future: I know that things won't get any better in my country. They can just get worse, and the only questions are how much and how fast. In a few years Russia will be led by an old man with little understanding of what is really going on while behind his back those in his entourage tear the country apart piece by piece. For Russia this is a nightmare that will end with an uprising or a revolution. ... We'll hear a hundred more times that there's 'no time for experiments', that we need stability and that you don't change horses in midstream. Putin hasn't just extended his powers, above all he's pronounced his judgment on the country.”

Der Standard (AT) /

A shameful violation

Russia's president is unabashedly satisfying his hunger for power, Der Standard notes:

“Putin will once again become a political virgin, his previous terms in office simply no longer count. But this manoeuvre has little to do with chaste prudery. On the contrary, it is a violation of the constitution that has been in force until now. What's surprising is just how brazenly the Kremlin is going about this, but the method is by no means new: Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, used the same trick to overturn annoying limitations in the constitution and to extend his term of office again and again. In the West Lukashenko has long been dubbed 'Europe's last dictator'. Now he's found a worthy challenger in the East.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Eternal ruler smothering the country

With this move Russia slides even deeper into the abyss, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung sighs:

“Year after year the country is losing more of its best minds because talented entrepreneurs, researchers and artists see no way to fulfil their potential at home. For more than a decade, the economy has been running at a snail's pace - the result of a lack of legal certainty and foreign policy adventures that have left the country isolated. Now Putin is promoting himself with the same old argument used by all dictators: stability. But the stability he guarantees is like the calm of a cemetery.”

NV (UA) /

The economy could end the Putin era

Putin's legal tricks won't help him in the long run, journalist Ivan Jakovyna writes in Novoye Vremya:

“Last weekend a severe economic crisis began in Russia. Shares in Russian companies dropped by 20 percent. The price of oil halved in a matter of weeks - from 60 to 30 dollars per barrel. At the same time the exchange rate for the dollar has soared. ... People are queuing up in exchange offices to buy foreign currencies. The functioning of the budget no longer seems secure and Russia needs to tap into its foreign exchange reserves as quickly as possible. International sanctions, falling oil prices, the coronavirus epidemic and incompetent leadership have brewed up a real storm for the Russian economy. Personally, I doubt it will survive it.”