Wednesday, March 18, 2020

New Constitutional Amendments Only Start of Rewriting Basic Law, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 13 – Many appear to think that with the new amendments to the Russian Constitution, Vladimir Putin will turn his attention elsewhere and leave the country’s Basic Law untouched for some time, Vladimir Pastukhov says, adding that he thinks that far more radical changes in that document and in the Russian political system are ahead.

            “Putin has opened a real Pandora’s box,” the London-based Russian analyst says. And because that is the case, “now, a serious and radical reworking of the Russian Constitution is an historical inevitability” with far larger changes ahead. “This is only the beginning” of this process, he says (

            At the same time, Pastukhov says, it is important to soberly reflect on what these first changes mean. Clearly, they give four “political dividends” to Putin; but at the same time, they create four far-reaching political problems for the Russian Federation and thus ultimately for the Kremlin leader that he will have to address by actions in the future.

            The political “dividends” Putin has pocked from his moves to reduce the importance of the constitution are the following:

·         “At a minimum,” the give Putin an additional way out of his current problems by allowing him to remain president until 2036.

·         They eliminate any prospect that he could become “’a lame duck’” and cause others to organize to challenge or succeed him.

·         They show that the constitution isn’t what matters in Russia but rather the individual who controls the force structures. For Putin, the constitution is like an appendix, something that does nothing unless it causes trouble. Now it has been removed from the body politic.

·         And “however paradoxical this may seem, out of all of this in no way does it follow that clarity has been introduced regarding Putin’s future plans.” He can continue to maneuver with remaining president only one option.

The more serious challenges these changes have exacerbated and thus point to further changes ahead are also four, Pastukhov says:

·         “The constitutional idea for the coming years in Russia has been completely discredited. The powers have boldly shown that they can do what they want with the constitution however and whenever it suits them.”

·         This will make meaningless institutions like the constitutional court and constitutional justices.

·         At the same time, there is an emerging gap between constitutional provisions on basic rights and those governing the presidency, and that gap will inevitably undercut the authority of the regime in the eyes of the population as well as introduce difficulties in the legal system.

·         And finally – “and this may be the most important” – the establishment of rules that allow Putin to rule for the rest of his life will have a profound impact on choices about his successor because the latter may try to do the same.

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