Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law on Monday adjusting his term limits which would allow him to potentially remain in the nation’s highest office until 2036, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
A July 1, 2020, referendum saw the Russian electorate overwhelmingly back a constitutional amendment package which included a provision allowing Putin to seek an additional two terms as president once his current term in office expires in 2024. The Putin regime claimed 78 percent of voters backed the changes while 21 percent opposed them. State media reported turnout as exceeding 65 percent.
The amendment package included over 200 changes including a minimum wage, a ban on same-sex marriage, inflation adjustments for pensions, and a firm two-term limit on Russian presidents excluding the incumbent officeholder. Voters could only choose to approve or reject the entire slate of proposals.
Though the Kremlin admitted more than 800 instances of voting irregularities, including the disqualification of ballots from a Moscow polling station due to ballot-stuffing, the government declared the results a “triumphant referendum” on the Putin administration.
Putin became acting (later official) president of Russia in late 1999 after gaining popularity as prime minister for his prosecution of the Second Chechen War. Except for a one-term interlude from 2008-2012 in which his hand-picked replacement, Dmitry Medvedev, filled the role, Putin has continued to govern Russia. At the time of Medvedev’s ascension, Russian presidents could serve two consecutive terms but had to sit out for at least one before running again, which Putin did twice more, albeit for lengthened six-year terms. Putin served as prime minister for a second time during Medvedev’s administration.
Apart from Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, whose tenure spanned from 1922-1953, Putin has spent more time in the Kremlin than any post-imperial Russian leader. As Stalin was an ethnic Georgian, Putin is the longest-serving ethnic Russian leader since Tsar Nicholas II. Should Putin secure two more terms and serve through their completion, he will have spent 32 years as president, making him the longest-serving Russian leader, ethnic Russian or otherwise, since Catherine the Great.
Putin reportedly has not yet decided if he will seek reelection in 2024, according to AP.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has caused Russia severe medical and economic losses, and large-scale protests over the detention of dissident Alexei Navalny have put a dent in Putin’s public image in recent months.