My guess is that he'll create a new role for himself as a powerful leader of the State Council to direct affairs from the back. The State Council could serve as something like the Politburo of Soviet times.
I wonder why he doesn't just let the Metropolitan crown him Tsar. Putin always loves to be seen with the dignitaries of the Orthodox Church.
Anyways, Trump is going to be livid with envy.
How Putin plans to stay on
Proposed changes to the Russian constitution pave the way for the president to remain in power.
If one thing was clear about the resignation of Russia's prime minister on Wednesday, it was that a step had been taken toward President Vladimir Putin remaining in power after his term ends in 2024.
When Putin began his annual speech to the federal assembly at noon, no one could have anticipated the string of bombshells that was to follow. After more than an hour of talk about social problems like Russia's long-running population decline, the president suddenly called for a raft of constitutional changes. Parliament, not the president, should appoint the prime minister, he said, and the status and role of the state council, a little-active advisory body, should be enshrined in the constitution.
Appearing with Putin and his ministers mere hours later, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev then announced that he and his government would resign to “give the president of our country the chance to make all decisions necessary” to institute the constitutional changes. The ministers reportedly had no idea this was coming.
State television was just as surprised as everyone else, simply playing Medvedev and Putin's statement in full on the six o'clock news before quickly moving on to easier topics like the additional benefits Putin had promised young families in his speech.
By evening, Putin had nominated as prime minister Mikhail Mishustin, the long-serving head of the tax service who plays hockey with the president and his friends on Putin's birthdays. While he's known as an effective bureaucrat, Mishustin is far from a political heavyweight, and few would have picked him as the next head of government.
The word on the lips of many pundits trying to understand what had just happened was “transition.” Since the constitution currently bars Putin from running for president again in 2024, it had been widely expected that he would eventually move to some other post while keeping a tight grip on the reins of power. That process has started.
“The government is dumbfounded, it didn't expect this, and maybe Medvedev didn't expect this either, so what can we say?” Gleb Pavlovsky, a former adviser in the administrations of both Putin and Medvedev, told POLITICO. “Of course this shows that the Kremlin is having thoughts about transition."
"It's not clear if it's acting correctly," he added. "But all decisions will be dictated by this.”
The proposed constitutional changes would weaken the presidency while giving greater power and independence to the parliament and state council, both of which have been seen even before now as possible landing spots for Putin. He could head a revamped state council comprised of regional governors, most of whom were appointed by Putin. Or else the Kremlin-loyal parties in parliament, which is chaired by a former Putin aide, could name him prime minister.
“These two options have opened up. There's a bigger corridor of possibility than there was before,” said Oleg Ignatov, a political consultant who previously worked for the ruling United Russia party. “Putin likes to create possibilities for himself, he likes to open lots of doors within the system and leave the decision until the very last minute. Now the system will be in a state of expectation.”
Other constitutional changes proposed by Putin in his speech seem designed to weaken his opponents in anticipation of his move to another position, particularly his call to “create effective cooperation between state and municipal organs.” Opposition activists have recently managed to win seats on municipal bodies including the Moscow city council.
He also stipulated that Russian court decisions should take precedent over international ones in an apparent snub of the European Court of Human Rights, which often rules in favor of Kremlin critics. And the president will be limited to two terms total, rather than two terms in a row as is the case now.
While Putin called for the changes to be put to a popular vote, possibly during regional elections in September, this will almost certainly be a formality. State television will promote them relentlessly, and then officials will jump to implement them.
The working group announced to draft the constitutional amendments includes parliamentarians and well-known cultural figures and athletes, all of them supporters of Putin.
The new social benefits promised by Putin in his speech and the appointment of a new prime minister seemed geared toward shoring up popular support before any major political moves. GDP is estimated to have grown by only 1 percent in 2019, and disposable incomes have been falling. A recent hike in the pension age remains extremely unpopular.
Putin's approval ratings are around 60 percent, 20 points below what they were five years ago.
At the very least, Medvedev's departure will be greeted warmly, as more than half of Russians disapprove of his job performance. By getting rid of him, Putin can argue that Russia's government is not stagnating along with its economy.
Although Mishustin is not the candidate to institute major economic reforms, it's expected he will carefully manage the country's finances and reduce waste. “His ideology is total control,” Pavlovsky said.
But perhaps his greatest quality is that he is not seen as a potential rival or successor to Putin.
The other constitutional changes will help eliminate any political obstructions to Putin's switch to a different office, said Georgy Satarov, a former aide to ex-President Boris Yeltsin and one of the authors of the current constitution. He argued that Putin's immediate appointment of Medvedev to a new position on the security council could allow him in the future to keep a close watch on that body, which is comprised of the heads of Russia's military and security agencies and headed by the president.
Analyst Yevgeny Minchenko argued that the changes would create a more balanced government. However, others doubt this.
Putin may hold onto power, but the lack of political competition and new ideas calls into doubt the long-term viability of his government, Pavlovsky said.
“I don't see even the minimal contours of a working system,” he added. “These are all ornamental changes that can work only as long as the existing regime is preserved. But a transition should be prepared for a situation in which Putin leaves, and this system should be stable in new conditions.”
Putin: L'État, c'est moi