Russian PM, govt resign to make way for Putin's reforms

MOSCOW • Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said yesterday that his government was resigning to give President Vladimir Putin room to carry out the changes he wants to make to the Constitution.

The unexpected announcement, which came shortly after Mr Putin proposed a nationwide vote on sweeping changes that would shift power from the presidency to Parliament, means Russia will also get a new prime minister.

Possible candidates include Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, Economy Minister Maxim Oreshkin and Energy Minister Alexander Novak.

Mr Medvedev , who became premier in 2012 after stepping down as president to make way for Mr Putin's return to the Kremlin, made the announcement on state TV sitting next to Mr Putin.

The reforms set out by Mr Putin will mean "fundamental changes" to the Constitution, Mr Medvedev said.

"In these circumstances, I think it would be right for the government to resign," Mr Medvedev said.

Mr Putin thanked Mr Medvedev, a close ally, for his work.

"I want to thank you for everything that has been done, to express satisfaction with the results that have been achieved," he said.

"Not everything worked out, but everything never works out."

He also said Mr Medvedev would take on a new job as deputy head of Russia's Security Council, which Mr Putin chairs.

Mr Putin asked for the outgoing government to remain at work until a new government was appointed.

The rouble fell as much as 0.6 per cent against the US dollar on the news, before paring its loss to 0.3 per cent at 61.62 per US dollar at 4.54pm in Moscow.

Mr Medvedev, 54, served four years as president from 2008 when Mr Putin left the Kremlin to comply with constitutional term limits.

Seen initially as a standard-bearer for liberal reforms, he surrendered the presidency back to Mr Putin at the end of his first term after they disclosed at a September 2011 congress of the ruling United Russia party that the job swop had been agreed on years earlier.

He has been among Mr Putin's closest political allies since they worked together in the St Petersburg city council in the early 1990s after the Soviet Union's collapse.

During Mr Putin's state-of-the-nation speech earlier yesterday, he told the country's political elite that he favoured changing the Constitution to hand the State Duma, the lower house of Parliament, the power to choose Russia's prime minister and other key positions.

"Of course, these are very serious changes to the political system," Mr Putin said, adding that he thought Parliament and civil society were ready for the changes.

"It would increase the role and significance of the country's Parliament... of parliamentary parties, and the independence and responsibility of the prime minister."

Mr Putin's comments are likely to reignite speculation about his plans once his current presidential term ends in 2024.

Critics have long accused him of plotting to stay on in some capacity to wield power over the country after he steps down.

He remains popular with many Russians who see him as a welcome source of stability, even as others complain that he has been in power for too long.

Although it remains unclear whether Mr Putin will play a major role in Russian political life after 2024, his new proposals point to possible options if he decides to remain at the top table of Russian politics as many supporters and critics expect.

Under the proposals, the prime minister would present Parliament with candidates for the country's deputy prime ministers and government ministers, which Parliament would also confirm.

"The president would be obliged to appoint them (Parliament's confirmed picks) to these jobs," said Mr Putin.

"He would not be allowed to reject candidates confirmed by Parliament."

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, ASSOCIATED PRESS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2020, with the headline 'Russian PM, govt resign to make way for Putin's reforms'. Print Edition | Subscribe