Russians Have Right to Feel 'Cheated' by Move to Allow Putin Stay in Power Until 2036, Says Constitution Author

A political scientist who helped draft Russia's current constitution has said that the Russian people have the right to feel "cheated" by lawmakers supporting amendments to the document which pave the way for President Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036.

On Wednesday the Kremlin-controlled lower house, the State Duma, approved by 383-0 with 43 abstentions, to amend the constitution which in its current form mandates Putin to stand down in 2024, the Associated Press reported.

The legislation that has just been passed is pending review from the country's Constitutional Court and approval by referendum on April 22, could allow Putin to run for the presidency two more times.

After Putin made a surprise speech at the Duma backing the move on Tuesday, Kremlin critics condemned the move as a push by the president to stay in power and have called for protests.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures during his meeting with investors at Novo Ogaryovo State Residence on March 11, 2020 in Moscow Oblast, Russia. Moscow's parliament, the State Duma has approved legislation which if approved, could mean he would stay in power until at least 2036. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Georgy Satarov, who was one of the authors of the current constitution, told the opposition media outlet Current Time News he expected people would take to the streets in opposition.

He told the network there had been protests "when citizens were outraged by Putin and (Dmitry) Medvedev swapping roles," referring to when Putin resumed the presidency in 2012 after stepping down for a term in 2008.

"Suddenly they found out that they were being cheated in the elections, and this angered them…their voices were stolen and they went out on the streets to demand their say in numbers that no one expected.

"And the same thing will happen. In principle, what they have done today, they have reproduced that situation, when society has the right to consider itself cheated… cheated and insulted," Satarov said.

Fearing a return to Russia's past when its leaders would stay in power until they died, the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazyeta splashed with the headline "Docking with the Soviet Union. There is contact!" in reference to the proposal to extend presidential terms first being made by United Russia deputy and first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova.

She told the lower house on Tuesday: "If this is what the situation requires, if this is what the people want, then the incumbent head of state should have a legal opportunity to run for president in accordance with the amended Constitution."

Another Kremlin critic, Leonid Volkov, chief strategist of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, wrote on Facebook: "The fact that Putin was never going to leave—we've always known. That he didn't make any clever moves, and instead stupidly just took another term—now that's a bit of a surprise."