In Depth

Why the entire Russian government has resigned

Shock move followed speech from Vladimir Putin in which he signalled plans to prolong his reign

The Russian government resigned yesterday just hours after Vladimir Putin suggested constitutional reforms that would allow him to extend his reign.

The 67-year-old first became president 20 years ago, with his fourth term in office due to expire in 2024.

The BBC says the government’s resignation, led by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, “came as a surprise” - and triggered what The Guardian describes as a “sweeping reshuffle” of Russia’s leadership.

What is Putin proposing?

The drama began after a state of the nation address, in which Putin proposed a nationwide referendum on shifting power away from the president to parliament. He suggested amending the constitution to allow politicians to name prime ministers and cabinet members - appointments currently made by the president.

He also proposed an increased role for an advisory body called the State Council, amendments to the time limits on presidential terms and limits for the supremacy of international law.

Why did the government resign?

Outgoing PM Medvedev, who has been replaced by technocrat Mikhail Mishustin, said: “These changes, when they are adopted... will introduce substantial changes not only to an entire range of articles of the constitution, but also to the entire balance of power, the power of the executive, the power of the legislature, the power of judiciary.

“In this context... the government in its current form has resigned.”

Accepting the resignations, Putin thanked members of the government for their work and added that “not everything worked out”.

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What is Putin playing at?

Putin appears to be paving the way to remain in power beyond 2024, perhaps in an alternative role. He has form in cynical manoeuvring to remain in charge: in 2008, he swapped places with the prime minister to dodge the constitutional provision that banned the same person from serving two consecutive terms as president.

The details of Putin’s plans are “murky”, but “in reality the details do not much matter” as “Russia is a dictatorship masquerading as a democracy”, says The Economist

“Whether Mr Putin is president, prime minister, head of the State Council or honorary chairman of the National Bridge Association, makes a lot less difference than it would in a real democracy,” it says.

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