The Russian government resigned on January 15 following Vladimir Putin’s 2020 annual state-of-the-nation address to Russian lawmakers in Moscow. During the adress, the president proposed changes to the Constitution that should provide more power to the Parliament and strengthen Russia’s national sovereignty.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev made the announcement on state television sitting next to Putin.
“These changes, when they are adopted, and in all likelihood this would be done following discussions, as was said, will make significant changes not only to a number of articles of the Constitution, but also to the balance of power as a whole,” Medvedev said.
“In this context, it’s obvious that we, as the government of the Russian Federation, should provide the president of our country with the opportunity to make all the decisions necessary for this. And in these circumstances, I believe that it’s correct that, in accordance with Article 117 of the Constitution, the Russian government in its current composition should resign.”
Putin accepted the resignation of the government. Nonetheless, the prime minister and the cabinet to remain as the acting government until a new one is formed. After the formation of the new government, Medvedev is expected to take up the position of deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council. This position is yet to be created.
Medvedev had occupied his current post of the Prime Minister since 2012. He also was the President of Russia – in the period from 2008 to 2012. The resignation of the Medvedev government is a signal of the upcoming tectonic shift in the Russian internal policy and a reaction to the current social and economic situation in the country.
Russian authorities already started preparations for the vote on the proposed amendments to the Russian Constitution. They can be summed up to the following:
- To guarantee the primacy of the Constitution of the Russian Federation on the territory of Russia over international law and international treaties. Previously, the Russian state followed the principle of the primacy of international law over its national laws.
- To ban prime ministers, governors and other key officials to have foreign citizenship or residence permit at the constitutional level.
- To introduce tougher requirements for those running for president: a candidate for the office must have permanently resided in Russia for at least 25 years (currently 10) and must have had no dual citizenship (the Constitution in its current form doesn’t prohibit this).
- To introduce in the Constitution the corresponding status and role of the State Council (an advisory body to the Russian head of state).
- To increase the responsibility of the Parliament for the formation and activities of the government. For example, the Parliament will be given the right to appoint the Prime Minister, his deputies and ministers (who are currently appointed by the President with the consent of the lower house). The candidature of the Prime Minister will be proposed by the President, while the rest of the government will be proposed by the appointed Prime Minister.
- The President should appoint of heads of law enforcement agencies, after consultation with the Federation Council.
- To strengthen the role of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation. At the request of the president, it should verify the constitutionality of bills and other documents.
- To allow the Federation Council (the upper house of the Parliament), on the recommendation of the President of Russia, to remove from office judges of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts in response to their misconduct defaming honor and dignity.
Aditionally, Putin noted that there is an opinion that the word “in a row” in limiting two presidential terms can be removed. However, he noted that this is not fundamental. It’s unclear if this point will be included in the expected vote.
Taking into account the recent developments, and the current social and economic situation in the country, it is expected that the ruling United Russia party will lose a notable part of its seats. At the same time, a possible bloc of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and other ‘left-wing’ opposition parties will have a chance to get at least a powerful minority in the Parliament. Therefore, the new Parliament will differ significantly from the configuration that we observed in the period from 2000 to 2020. This, altogether with the announced changes to the Constitution, will directly influence the composition of the government and the policy that it will provide.
If all the amendments to the Constitution are accepted, this will mark a tectonic shift in the Russian internal and foreign policy.The ‘nationalization of elites’ (via the ban on foreign citizenships or residence permits), the primacy of the Constitution over international law and other steps are openly aimed at strengthening the Russian state and its sovereignity in the conditions of the growing instability on the international scene, public and rough violations of international law by key global actors and the increasing confrontation among world powers.This is especially important amid the collapse of the existing system of international relations, including key international security treaties.
Following the adress, Central Election Commission Secretary Maya Grishina revealed that the vote on amendments to the Russian Constitution may be held in 2020 already.