Council of Europe experts criticise Putin's constitutional reform

The Council of Europe's Commission for Democracy through Law (or Venice Commission) has strongly criticised the 2020 reform of the Russian Constitution. Among other things, the reform enables Vladimir Putin to govern until 2036. According to the Commission's experts, "the changes go far beyond what is appropriate according to the principle of separation of powers" and threaten the rule of law in Russia. The media agree.

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Lrt (LT) /

Degrading the rule of law

The proposed changes could hardly be more undemocratic, writes Dainius Žalimas, President of the Lithuanian Constitutional Court, in Lrt:

“The changes to the Russian constitution clearly violate the basic legal and democratic principles of the Council of Europe: the rule of law, democracy, human rights and freedoms. Hence the inquiry into whether there has been a gross violation of obligations towards the Council of Europe. Representatives of the Russian Duma have now maintained at the meeting of the Venice Commission that Russia is developing much faster than Europe, also in the field of law. ... That trend is clearly visible in Vladimir's constitution. But more in terms of the race to see who degrades constitutionalism the most.”

Denik (CZ) /

Putin has no other choice

In view of all his transgressions the Russian president urgently needs the immunity of his office, Deník points out:

“Even if Putin didn't want this situation he has no other choice: without the cover provided to him as leader of the nuclear superpower, he is a war criminal. He is guilty of occupying and annexing the territory of a neighbouring state and waging a war that has claimed many thousands of victims. That in itself is enough for life imprisonment. If democracy and justice were to win out in Russia, no doubt other reasons for putting Putin away for a long time would come to light. Putin simply has to remain President until his death. If he wants to die a natural death in freedom, he has no alternative.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

Exit guarantee for the Kremlin chief

It could be that Putin is preparing for his departure, political scientist Gerhard Mangott writes in the Wiener Zeitung:

“Now that the country's political elite knows that Putin could be president beyond 2024, [discussions about his succession] make no sense. ... If, on the other hand, Putin had announced that he would step down in 2024, he would have been nothing but a lame duck for the last few years of his presidency. ... But there is also another change that could allow Putin to leave politics in 2024: new immunity rules for Russian presidents were passed with the constitutional reform, with the result that they may no longer be held accountable under civil or criminal law for what they did before, during and after their term in office. ... The strong legal protection could serve as an 'exit guarantee' for Putin, an insurance policy that could allow him to leave the political stage.”