Sat, Nov 15, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Russian parliament passes presidential term proposal

AFP , MOSCOW

Russia’s parliament yesterday overwhelmingly passed constitutional changes extending presidential terms, a move opponents suspect could lead to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin returning to the presidency.

The State Duma held a first reading on constitutional changes “relating to changing the term of office of the Russian president and of the State Duma.”

The changes, announced by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev earlier this month, would extend presidential terms from four years to six years.

Approval of the first ever changes to Russia’s 1993 Constitution requires the assent of both houses of parliament and of two-thirds of Russia’s regional assemblies.

The Duma waved through the proposals with little serious debate.

Second and third readings on the legislation could take place next week, Alexander Moskalets, a deputy on the Duma’s constitutional law committee, said on Thursday.

The changes have sparked speculation that Medvedev, who succeeded Putin in May, could use the pretext of constitutional changes to step down early and make way for a return to the post by his mentor.

Activists from the opposition Yabloko party mounted a small rally outside parliament, holding up a placard with a quote from Putin: “You should change brains, not the Constitution,” the Echo of Moscow radio station reported.

Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov has denied the changes would strengthen the presidency, saying “it should be seen as a balanced model for a new political construct.”

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