On April 29, representatives of a recently-formed youth movement filed documents with the Moscow City Election Commission to register an initiative group whose aim would be drumming up support for holding a national referendum on whether to extend the presidential term from four to ten years (Russian agencies, March 29). According to Nezavisimaya gazeta, the youth movement, which is called For Stability, held its first organizational meeting on April 22, during which it decided to pursue the idea of a referendum to extend the presidential term. The movement also advocates reviewing the results of privatization and banning Russians who are dual nationals or own property abroad from holding high governmental posts “The origin of the newborn movement is not entirely clear,” Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on April 30, adding that it has a “not very informative” Internet site and no legal address. Movement members – including the head of its referendum initiative group, Dmitry Aniskin – have denied that For Stability has links to any existing youth or political organizations, including Moving Together, the Kremlin-supported pro-Putin youth group. A representative of Moving Together denied the group has any links to For Stability (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, April 30).
President Vladimir Putin has on several occasions said he is against extending the presidential term, and in February he came out against a constitutional amendment submitted by Ivanov region’s legislative assembly to the State Duma that would have extended the term from four to seven years, saying he was against “destabilizing the constitution.” At the same time, Putin said he understood that those seeking to extend the presidential term wanted “to create more stable conditions for the country, achieve a stable implementation of the principal aspects of the president’s policy, which, as it seems to me, is supported by the majority of the population” (Russian agencies, February 6).
Putin’s denials aside, Elena Dikun wrote in Moskovskie novosti in March that leading Kremlin “siloviki,” including then-deputy Kremlin administration chiefs Igor Sechin and Viktor Ivanov, Federal Security Service Chairman Nikolai Patrushev and Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov, planned to introduce a constitutional amendment lifting the ban on a president serving more than two terms, and would do so under the cover of an amendment replacing Russia’s 89 regions with eight large districts (Moskovskie novosti, March 19).
Nezavisimaya gazeta suggested that For Stability’s proposed constitutional amendment is the latest in a series of trial balloons launched by “various political groups” in order to gauge public opinion (Nezavisimaya gazeta, April 30). In early February, ROMIR Monitoring published the results of a poll in which 52 percent of the respondents said they were against amending the constitution to extend the president’s term to seven years but 54 percent said they thought Putin would remain president after the end of his second and last constitutionally-mandated term in office in 2008 (Russian agencies, February 5).