[JURIST] Russia's Federation Council [official website, in Russian], the upper house of parliament, gave final approval Monday to amendments to the Russian Constitution [materials] that would extend presidential terms [Article 81(1) text] from four to six years and terms for parliament members [Article 96(1) text] from four to five years. The Council issued a unanimous resolution approving the amendments [RIA Novosti report] after it was approved by all 83 regional parliaments. The resolution followed earlier endorsements from the State Duma [official website, in Russian; JURIST report], or lower house, as well as Federation Council [JURIST report]. The term extension amendments, once signed into law by President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile; JURIST news archive], will mark the first changes to the Russian constitution since it replaced its Soviet-era predecessor in 1993.
Kremlin officials, including Medvedev, have championed the amendments as a way of ensuring the flexibility and sustainability of Russias political system. Critics fear, that the term extensions are designed to orchestrate a longer third term for former president and current prime minister Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian; JURIST news archive] should Medvedev step aside. Medvedev proposed the changes in his first state of the nation address [text; JURIST report] to the Federal Council in November.