01 October, 2007

From President to Prime Minister

The BBC reports that when he steps down as president, Vladimir Putin is going to run for the Russian parliament and that he aspires to become the country's prime minister. The BBC reports this as a shocking new development, though I had read this suggested in the academic literature on Russian semi-presidentialism. People have been wondering for some time whether Putin was really going to step down as president, given his obvious enjoyment of being the top dog in Russian politics. The switch to prime minister allows him to remain at the centre of politics without having to change the constitution to allow him to run for another term; and prime ministers are not bound by inconvenient term limits.

At the moment, the constitution makes the Russian prime minister clearly subservient to the president, and the BBC quotes one Andrei Ryabov of the Carnegie Moscow Center as saying that the consitution will need to be changed to allow Putin to remain the country's leader. This may or may not be the case. One thing you often see with semi-presidential systems is that the primacy of the premiership and presidency is decided not by the constitutional prerogatives of the offices, but by who occupies them. In Russia's case, Putin as prime minister will remain the man around whom politics has rotated for the last seven years. It is still not clear who Putin favours as his successor, but it should not be impossible for him to find a pliant yes-man to run for the job.

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