28 Feb 2020 15:33

Count of presidencies in Russia may be set to zero, Putin may serve as president past 2024 - pundit

MOSCOW. Feb 28 (Interfax) - The number of presidential terms served by Russian presidents could well be set back to zero after the Russian Constitution is amended, Center for Current Policy Director Alexei Chesnakov said.

"Thus far, nobody can predict Russian President Vladimir Putin's precise place in a future system of governance with all confidence, leaning on legal and political arguments. The time is not right yet. One thing is clear: no scenarios should be dismissed now, including the scenario in which the number of presidencies may be set back to zero and Putin may remain in the office," Chesnakov told Interfax.

"Legal mechanisms for this do exist," he said. "Political, social, and personal [mechanisms] can also be rationalized. Public support for this scenario can also be easily ensured," Chesnakov said.

He said he agreed with former presidential aide Vladislav Surkov saying a few days ago that the amendments proposed to the Russian Constitution do not rule out a scenario in which the count of the presidential terms served by Russian presidents may be set back to zero.

"The amendments proposed up to now do not impose any direct restrictions on the possibility of setting the count of presidential terms to zero. The choice of scenario will depend on numerous internal and external factors," Chesnakov said.

"It makes sense not to refer to some abstract 'spirit of the law' but rather be guided by the logic of political expediency for the country and for the system," he said.

He insisted that all possible scenarios should be taken into consideration. "Everything can and should be discussed. No options should be ruled out," Chesnakov said.

"There is a time for everything. The Putin constitution should first be finalized. That's right, we are talking about constitutional amendments de jure, but about the Putin constitution de facto. I like that better. Putin is the creator of the current system of governance rather than its adjuster. I think it's too early to talk seriously about the real mechanics of the transition period and particular forms, interpretations, and specifics of a future regime," he said.

Speaking in an interview with Chesnakov earlier, Surkov said, "If presidential powers are somehow adjusted in the end, which has been discussed, if I'm not mistaken, then legal logic will lead to the need to begin counting presidential terms anew."

"With new powers, this would be kind of a different institution of the presidency," Surkov said in the interview, which was published on the Aktualnye Kommentarii website.

"The limitations of the current presidency cannot be applied to it. Anyway, if the authorities don't set the count to zero, they'd infringe on legal purity," Surkov said, adding that this was his "private opinion, but one based on legislative patterns."