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Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed legislation enabling him to run for re-election for two more six-year terms, potentially extending his reign until 2036.

If Mr. Putin stays in power until 2036, he would have served longer than Joseph Stalin, who dominated the Soviet Union for 29 years, making him the country’s longest-serving leader since the Russian empire ended.

Mr Putin has served as president twice, from 2000 to 2008 and 2012 to present, as well as de facto leader when serving as Prime Minister from 2008 to 2012.

Mr Putin signed new legislation last year that gave former presidents a lifetime seat in the federation council or senate, ensuring them immunity from prosecution once they left office.

The 68-year-old Russian President, who has been in power for more than two decades, said he will determine whether or not to run for re-election in 2024, when his current six-year term expires.

How did it all Begin?

Mr. Putin proposed a constitutional referendum in Russia in July 2020.

Mr Putin’s previous term limits were reset in the July 1 constitutional referendum, enabling him to run for president two more times.

The Kremlin-controlled legislature approved the amendment, and the related legislation, signed by Mr Putin, was posted on an official legal information portal on Monday.

Mr Putin has said that resetting the term count was appropriate in order to keep his lieutenants focused on their jobs rather than “darting their eyes in search of potential successors.”

The constitutional amendments also emphasized Russian law’s primacy over international standards, prohibited same-sex marriages, and listed “faith in God” as a core value.

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During the week-long election, which ended on July 1, nearly 78 percent of voters approved the constitutional amendments. The voter turnout was 68 percent.

Following the vote, Russian legislators went through the process of modifying national legislation and authorizing the applicable laws.

The opposition slammed the constitutional referendum, claiming that it was marred by widespread allegations of voter intimidation and other irregularities, as well as a lack of accountability and barriers to impartial oversight.

“They really think that if they managed to deceive human laws, then they will be able to deceive the laws of nature,” opposition politician Yevgeny Roizman wrote on Twitter.

What Were Mr. Putin’s Reasons for Acting the way he did?

According to Associate Professor Alexei Muraviev, writing in The Conversation, despite Mr Putin’s ratings plummeting to a six-year low of 35% in Levada polls last year, he believes it is possible that he did not sign the legislation due to a loss of public confidence.

Three major factors, according to Professor Muraviev, may explain the changes in the constitution.

To begin with, there are no obvious successors in sight. Since public confidence in Mr. Putin has eroded in recent years, polls indicate that public support for Putin’s allies has remained substantially lower.

Second, the move to signal a possible return to power may be motivated by a need to provide immediate support to the volatile Russian markets, which have collapsed after the breakdown of talks between Russia and OPEC over oil output cuts.

“The reasoning is simple: by signaling he can remain on, Mr Putin is attempting to convince investors that Russia is unlikely to revert to internal political instability,” writes Professor Muraviev.

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Third, Mr Putin’s 20 years in power have had the impact of the Russian electorate seeing little hope in the opposition.

“Many Russians equate Mr Putin with the country’s rise as a great power, the restoration of its military might, and the stabilization of the economy compared to the instability of the 1990s,” writes Professor Muraviev.

Why Isn’t There Dissent?

Alexey Navalny, Russia’s leading opposition figure, initiated a series of anti-corruption investigations into members of Mr Putin’s party, but his public support remained poor, at 3% in polls from 2017 to 20.

Mr Navalny has been jailed by Russia in the months after the vote in July.

Mr Navalny, 44, was apprehended in January after returning from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning he blamed on the Kremlin. The allegation has been dismissed by Russian authorities.

Mr Navalny was sentenced to two and a half years in prison in February for violating his probation while recuperating in Germany.

The sentence stems from an embezzlement conviction from 2014, which Navalny has dismissed as fraudulent and which the European Court of Human Rights has ruled to be illegal.

Source: ABC World News

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