Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 226

The idea of extending the term of the Russian presidency has received a boost from Sergei Mironov, the new speaker of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament. Last week, the newspaper Novye Izvestia reported that President Vladimir Putin’s team was considering the idea of amending Russia’s constitution to extend the presidential term from four to seven years, which could, theoretically, give Putin a total of seventeen years in office (see the Monitor, December 7). Shortly after being elected speaker last week, Mironov was asked about the idea of extending the president’s term. He replied that, in his view, the present four-year term is “too short” for contemporary Russia and that the Federation Council could initiate the constitutional changes necessary to extend it. Mironov added, however, that “a quick revision of the constitution” is not on the immediate agenda (, December 7). In a television interview over the weekend, Mironov would not be pinned down to exactly how long he thought the presidential term should be, but said it should be “a minimum of five years” and that he had no doubt there were “very many” supporters of the idea of amending the constitution to extend the presidential term. He stressed once again, however, that there was no need to rush ahead now, adding this time that the necessary changes in the constitution could even be instituted after Putin leaves office (RTR, December 8).

But while Mironov apparently wanted to leave the impression that he supports extending the presidential term on principle, and not in order to help Putin, it is hard to believe that the new Federation Council speaker–an associate of the president since 1994, when both were officials in St. Petersburg–decided to push the idea without first consulting or getting a green light from at least some members of Putin’s team (see the Monitor, December 6). Indeed, it is interesting to note that the political scientist Sergei Markov and the commentator Mikhail Leontyev, both of whom have good Kremlin connections, came out over the weekend in support of the idea (, December 10). It should also be noted that Putin himself came out last year in favor of the notion (see the Monitor, December 7).

The idea is not without critics. Boris Nemtsov, head of the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) said that the two four-year terms currently permitted under the constitution gave Putin a “quite sufficient term” and that changing the constitution to extend the presidential term would mean “instability, unpredictability and big problems for Russia.” “All the same, I quietly believe that President Putin isn’t Turkmenbashi,” said Nemtsov, referring to the title that Turkmenistan’s president-for-life, Saparmurat Niazov, has adopted (, December 7). A leading politician from the other side of Russia’s political spectrum, Gennady Seleznev, speaker of the State Duma and a member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), was critical of the idea of extending the term to seven years, saying that four or five years was more than enough, particularly given that the constitution allows a president two terms in office. Seleznev, however, did not rule out that the constitution could be amended to change the length of the presidential term (, December 9).