[JURIST] Russian State Duma [official website, in Russian] officials said Wednesday they would expedite consideration of constitutional amendments submitted [press release] by President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile; JURIST news archive] that would extend presidential and parliamentary terms. The Duma's constitutional committee has recommended that the three required readings of the proposed legislation be done at one time, which would enable the legislation to be passed as early as Friday. The proposed amendments [JURIST report] would increase presidential term length under Article 81(1) [text] of the Russian Constitution [materials] from four to six years and extend Duma members' terms under Article 96(1) [text] from four to five years. A Kremlin statement said that longer terms "will increase the responsibility of the president and the Russian parliament for their respective performances," adding:
Establishing a longer term of office for the President with respect to State Duma deputies speaks to the need to ensure the stable development of the country and the continuity of government policies. The achievement of this goal is rendered more difficult when there is a virtually complete turnover of power at the federal level every four years.
Medvedev has also submitted for approval a second bill [press release] aiming to give the State Duma supervisory authority over the government cabinet and requiring the cabinet to submit annual reports of its activities to the parliament. If approved, the amendments will next be considered by the Federation Council of Russia [official website, in Russian], the country's upper house. DPA has more. RIA Novosti has additional coverage.
The term limit changes, highlighted by Medvedev in his first state of the nation address [text] to the Federal Assembly earlier this month, will only apply to future presidents. Critics fear that the proposed amendments are an attempt to orchestrate additional terms for former president and current prime minister Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian; BBC profile], who would be eligible to serve 12 more years in the presidency under the terms as proposed. Last week, the Vedomosti newspaper reported that sources close to the presidency expect Medvedev to step down [Sydney Morning Herald report] before the end of his term to allow Putin to seek the office again, though other Kremlin insiders have denied such rumors.