The new Russian constitution: Putin for life, God, and the special role of Russian speakers. What does it all mean?
Only one last step remains between Russia and the new constitution—the popular vote on April 22.
After that, it will become a country in which God is mentioned in the constitution, Russian speakers play a special role, and Vladimir Putin is the de facto ruler for life.
How Putin for life and God ended up in the constitution
On March 16, 2020, the Constitutional Court approved constitutional amendments that President Putin proposed in January.
They were developed by a special working group, which raised a lot of questions amongst Russian society, as it was composed of singers, athletes, and other people who work in areas far from the field of jurisprudence.
The main changes:
• The State Duma will have the right to approve the appointment of the prime minister and the entire government.
• The Russian Constitution will take precedence over international legal acts.
• God is mentioned.
•Russian speakers are given special status.
•Marriage is established as the union between a man and a woman.
And most importantly:
The word “consecutive” will be removed from the provision on the number of presidential terms, and the term clock will be reset, meaning that any other terms a president has served will no longer be counted. This will enable Vladimir Putin to remain president until at least 2036.
•These amendments have shocked lawyers in Russia and around the world. They should finally enter into force after the all-Russian vote. The vote was originally scheduled for April 22, but the date may be postponed due to the coronavirus epidemic.
Public protests in Russia
120 well-known Russian cultural figures made a statement regarding the proposed amendments.
“We consider what is happening to be an open assault on the foundations of the Russian constitutional system, usurping power in favor of one person—the current president of Russia, Vladimir Putin,” states the letter.
Another open letter signed by leading Russian lawyers and scholars (including dozens of academics, doctors and professors) said:
“We believe that the threat of a deep constitutional crisis and an unlawful anti-constitutional coup is looming over our country”
Yekaterina Shulman, a former member of the Human Rights Council under President Putin, made a comment mocking the decision of the Constitutional Court:
“It is rare that the spirit of slavery and intellectual cowardice express themselves with such fullness in the written text. And all this using Roman legal terminology, the meaning of which these barbarians, who live in fear of their own shadow, have no idea.
I don’t understand what these people were expecting. Their professional reputation is completely ruined.”