Vladimir Putin won’t accept new constitutional limits that would prevent him from extending his rule as Russia’s president until 2024 as he returns to the Kremlin after four years as premier.
Speaking today at the lower house of parliament, Putin said he supported a proposal to impose a two-term presidential limit. The measure, which would replace the current ban on three consecutive terms, wouldn’t apply to him, Putin said.
“As far as removing from the constitution two consecutive terms and making it just two terms -- I think it makes sense,” Putin said in Moscow in his last appearance before the State Duma as head of government. “I am being quite honest with you, and not only because I am less concerned by it” because “the law wouldn’t be retroactive.”
Putin, 59, who hasn’t ruled out a fourth presidential term from 2018, will be inaugurated on May 7 as president after winning re-election last month. He can legally serve two more consecutive six-year terms, which would give him 24 years in power, the longest for any Russian leader since Josef Stalin.
The president-elect, who faced unprecedented protests against his rule after allegations of fraud in December parliamentary elections, called on his opponents to rally round and cooperate with his government.
“The country went through a tense period of parliamentary and presidential elections and of course today we still feel the aftershocks of heightened emotions, political battles,” Putin said. “But the logic of mature democracy is that when elections are over, another much more important phase of joint work starts. We need to look to the future.”
Defying the appeal, lawmakers from the Just Russia opposition party walked out of the Duma during Putin’s speech in protest over his comments about a disputed mayoral vote in Astrakhan. Putin said election outcomes should be contested in courts and may be overturned if voter fraud affect the final tally. Just Russia leaders in the Volga city of Astrakhan have been on hunger strike for almost a month after Putin’s United Russia party candidate Mikhail Stolyarov won the March 4 ballot with 60 percent.
Police earlier detained about 10 opposition activists who protested outside the parliament building holding white ribbons, which have become a symbol of Putin’s opponents.
Opposition parties claim that the ruling party inflated its share of the vote in the Dec. 4 parliamentary elections from 30 to around 50 percent. Putin, who persuaded his protege, outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev, to step aside and back his Kremlin return, won the presidency last month with almost 64 percent. Medvedev, 46, is set to replace Putin as premier.
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