With Vladimir Putin’s time in office approaching the constitutionally mandated end, Russians might be thinking that they would soon see someone else as president. Except … no. No one was really thinking that. And on Wednesday, Russia learned how things are really going to happen. Just a day after an annual address to parliament in which Putin suggested changes to the constitution, the entire Russian government is politely stepping aside by resigning en masse. Which certainly beats a national epidemic of people falling out windows. Putin will use the resulting gap to select a government more favorable to his changes—changes that will shift the way power is structured in Russia.
Putin had been running Russia since the last day of the 20th century, when then-president Boris Yeltsin resigned. But an inconvenient two-term limit in the new Russian constitution meant that Putin had to officially step back in 2008, assuming the role of prime minister while proxy Dmitry Medvedev officially sat in Putin’s chair. Then Putin returned in 2012 to serve out two more terms; which, thanks to previous constitutional changes supported by Putin, were extended to six years each.
But, according to (warning: Russian state media) TASS Putin doesn’t intend to simply mandate a presidency-for-life when his time ends in 2024. Instead, Putin is pressing for changes that will take power away from the presidency and leave more authority with the prime minister and parliament.
This could suggest that Putin intends to once again drop down to the PM slot. Only, since one of the changes he’s proposing would prevent anyone else from repeating his trick of having more than two non-consecutive terms, it doesn’t seem he intends to come to the presidency. Still, no one believes that Putin is planning anything that looks like retirement. Instead it seems likely he will put the changes in place, assume the prime minster role at the end of his current term, and fill the presidency with a series of interchangeable supporters whose weakened positions makes them little more than figureheads.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump is probably just wondering if he can get the whole Congress to resign. Maybe he could start by just asking all the Republicans to go home … so something could get done.