Medvedev proposes longer presidential mandate
AFP - Thursday, November 6
MOSCOW (AFP) - - President Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday he wanted to extend the presidential mandate in Russia from four years to six, prompting speculation among Kremlinologists as to his true intentions.
In his first state-of-the-nation speech since being elected in March, Medvedev told lawmakers and senior public figures he wanted "to increase the term of the constitutional powers of the president" to six years.
He said parliament's mandate should be extended from four years to five. The changes would have to be approved by a majority in parliament, currently dominated by the party of his predecessor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
"This should not be seen as a strengthening of presidential power. It should be seen as a balanced model for a new political construct," said First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, RIA Novosti news agency reported.
Medvedev called for other political reforms including steps to increase the representation of smaller parties in parliament and to give non-governmental organisations the right to scrutinise legislation.
Opposition political commentator Yulia Latynina said extending the mandate could be part of "a coup d'etat" to ensure the presidency returned to Putin.
"It means a change in the constitution and fresh elections and I doubt very much they will be won by Medvedev," said Latynina from the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, implying that Putin would be the real victor.
But Georgy Bovt, a political analyst with City FM radio in Moscow, said the proposals could be an attempt by Medvedev to bolster his own political base at the expense of Putin.
"The speech showed an intention to formulate his own political style.... It sounds like a careful kind of liberalism. A lot depends on how it's carried out," said Bovt.
"It will affect the president who is elected in 2012. Whether it's Medvedev or Putin or someone else I don't know. It depends on whether Medvedev can strengthen his political base," he added.
Sam Greene, an analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Centre, gave a different view, saying Putin and Medvedev were "all one team" and that the mandate proposal was just part of standard Kremlin policy.
"There's a risk averse group of people in power in Russia.... With fewer elections, you have less risk," Greene said.
"Life is not going to be easier for political parties," he added.
Medvedev aide Larisa Brychyova later explained that the mandate extension would not apply to Medvedev's current term and that the proposals could be drawn up before the end of 2008, Russian news agencies reported.
Medvedev's current term is set to run out in 2012. Putin has served two terms in office but is eligible to run again because a constitutional ban on holding the post more than twice in a row does not prevent a return to office later.
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