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Russia’s Parliament Passes Law Enabling Putin to Run for President Again

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MOSCOW — At the urging of President Vladimir V. Putin, Russia’s lower house of Parliament passed legislation Tuesday allowing him to run for a fifth term as president.

Mr. Putin, who is 67 years old and was first elected in 2000, noted that the legislation would still have to be approved by Russia’s Constitutional Court and in a nationwide plebiscite in April.

But in Russia’s tightly controlled political system, Tuesday’s choreographed flurry of events was the clearest sign yet that after 20 years as president or prime minister, Mr. Putin is preparing to stay in the Kremlin for, perhaps, the rest of his life.

If he serves two additional terms, Mr. Putin will have held the nation’s highest office for 32 years, longer than Stalin but still short of Peter the Great, who reigned for 43 years.

In finding ways to escape what seemed to be ironclad limits on his tenure, Mr. Putin joined President Xi Jinping of China and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey as authoritarian leaders who have sought to extend their power.

In the past, Mr. Putin proceeded cautiously, seeking to preserve a veneer of legality. Confronting term limits in 2008, Mr. Putin opted for a four-year hiatus as prime minister while his protégé, Dmitri Medvedev, became the caretaker president.

In January he proposed some murky constitutional changes that analysts said pointed to his intention to stay beyond the end of his current term.

But on Tuesday, Mr. Putin seemed to throw caution to the wind, saying he had supported the proposed legislation for the good of the country and its security. The president is the guarantor “of the security of our state, of its internal stability — its internal, evolutionary stability,” Mr. Putin said. “And I mean evolutionary. We’ve had enough revolutions.”

While momentous, the events that unfolded Tuesday in Parliament were hardly a surprise. Under Russia’s current Constitution, Mr. Putin is obligated to step down at the end of his presidential term in 2024. But few in Russia expected him to relinquish power so soon, and analysts and politicians have long been speculating about how the president would hold on to the reins.

It became clear on Tuesday that a Constitutional overhaul initiated by Mr. Putin in January would become the vehicle to do just that. Mr. Putin’s proposed amendments to the Constitution covered the intricacies of the authority of the president and the prime minister, while another proposed amendment would ban gay marriage.

But on Tuesday, as lawmakers in the lower house of Parliament took up the amendments, one of them added a new one to the mix. Mr. Putin should be allowed to run again in 2024, said the cosmonaut-turned-politician Valentina Tereshkova, who in 1963 became the first woman in space.

“Given his enormous authority, this would be a stabilizing factor for our society,” Ms. Tereshkova told lawmakers, referring to Mr. Putin’s ability to run again.

What followed was a quick cascade of developments that seemed to be carefully planned to carry a patina of spontaneity. The speaker of the lower house, the State Duma, said Mr. Putin would personally appear in order to give his own input on the new proposal. While the lawmakers waited, members of the pro-Putin United Russia party said they would back it.

“No one is saying” Mr. Putin will run again in 2024, one lawmaker, Aleksandr Khinshtein, said in a televised interview. “But the possibility of doing so must exist for the head of state in order to maintain stability in society.”

Soon, Mr. Putin took the podium to a standing ovation and explained that he had taken the rare step of making an unscheduled visit to the Duma because he wanted to address lawmakers “without delay.”

Mr. Putin said he believed that in the years to come, Russia must develop into a country in which the president changes regularly. So, he said, the Constitution should retain a two-term limit. But he also said Russia might not be ready for such changes yet because of foreign and domestic threats to the state’s stability. And he hinted at the idea that political power in Russia had long been vested in a single leader.

“I’m sure the time will come when the highest, presidential authority in Russia will not be, as they say, so personified — not so bound up in a single person,” Mr. Putin said. “But that is how all of our past history came together and we cannot, of course, disregard this.”

Minutes after Mr. Putin spoke, Duma lawmakers voted in favor of legislation that would reset the term-limit clock for Mr. Putin if he were to run again in 2024.

Mr. Putin emphasized that the legislation allowing him to run again would have to be approved by Russia’s Constitutional Court. The legislation would also be part of the package of Constitutional amendments to be voted on in a previously scheduled nationwide plebiscite on April 22.

He did not say definitively whether he actually planned to run again, saying at the end of his speech: “I’m sure that together, we will do many more great things, at least until 2024. Then, we will see.”

Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting from Moscow.



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