A bill extending the presidential term from four to six years has received final approval from the lower house of Russia’s parliament. The move is widely seen as paving the way for Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency. (Putin left and Medvedev right on the photo, from aljazeera.net)
Dominated by the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, the Duma voted 392 to 57 to approve the bill at its third and final reading.
Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president, proposed the bill, which will now go to the upper house, where it is largely expected to be approved.
The communists are the only opposition to the constitutional changes. Their proposition to limit presidents to just one term was ignored.
In the Duma, some politicians argued earlier this week that the law does not allow individual politicians to propose changes to the constitution.
They also complained at the apparent fast-tracking of the bill.
“All democratic principles were violated during the debate”, said Nikolai Ryabov, a communist, during Friday’s session.
“The bill was passed at such a speed as if people would start living better after its passage.”
President Medvedev was preceded by very popular Vladimir Putin. The latter became his successor’s prime minister because the constitution prevented him from seeking a third straight term as president in election this year.
In March, Dmitry Medvedev, backed by Mr Putin, was resoundingly elected to the position.
The the upper house approves the change, it would not apply to Mr Medvedev’s current term, due to end in 2012.
The change was not tailored to help him and would help boost democracy.However, speculation started with the push to enact the constitutional change just months after Mr Medvedev’s election. Some think that his term could be cut short in order to bring Mr Putin back into the Kremlin.
On Thursday, in his speech at the congress of the United Russia party, Mr Putin gave no immediate signal that he was eyeing a change in position.
He said that he was eagerly and competently doing his job as prime minister, in order to help shelter Russians from the current global financial crisis.
Yet his performance appeared aimed to cast himself as the best hope for a country at a difficult time.