COVID-19 Special Coverage
Russia parliament approves constitutional change allowing Putin to run for president again

Both houses of the Russia Parliament on Wednesday approved a constitutional change that would allow President Vladimir Putin to run for reelection again.

The current Russian constitution requires the president to step down after serving two consecutive terms. Putin is currently serving his second consecutive term and would have to leave office when his term ends in 2024. He had proposed some constitutional changes in January, but nothing that directly addressed term limits. However, in an address to Parliament Tuesday he supported the change, referring to the office of the presidency as vital to the “security” and “internal stability” of the state.

The amendment, which would reset the term-limit clock to zero, was introduced by Valentina Tereshkova, a politician who, in 1963, was the first woman in space. She cited the president’s “enormous authority” as a “stabilizing factor for [Russian] society.”

Putin first served as president in 2000, stepping down in 2008 to avoid the term-limit issue. From 2008 to 2012 he was appointed prime minister of Russia while Dmitry Medvedev acted as a sort of caretaker-president. Putin was then elected president again in 2012 and has served in that office since. Political opponents have accused him of attempting to usurp power and install himself as president for life, and three activists have applied for permits to hold protests. Their efforts may be stymied by a ban issued Tuesday evening on all gatherings of more than 5,000 persons in Moscow. The ban is supposed to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The amendment passed the Duma, the lower house, by 383 votes in its third and final reading, with 43 abstentions and 24 absents, and no votes against. Several hours later the Federation Council, which is the upper house of the Russian parliament, passed the amendment by 160 votes, with one against and three abstentions. The amendment must now be approved by two-thirds of regional parliaments, then a final public vote on April 22.