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ANALYSIS Putin's last term as president? Russian constitution says it could be By Peter Spinella, dpa

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
While Putin‘s victory in Russia‘s presidential election was easy to predict, the leader is keeping his cards close to his chest on future plans - and whether he is grooming a potential successor.

Moscow (dpa) - Russia‘s constitution stipulates a limit of two consecutive terms for the president, so the freshly re-elected Vladimir Putin wouldn‘t be eligible to stand again until 2030, when he would be 77 years old.

That is, unless the constitution is changed. The ruling political party, United Russia, wields so much power in parliament that it can amend the constitution without the consent of another party.

Putin, re-elected to his fourth term on Sunday, has been in power as president or prime minister for nearly two decades. He won with more than three-quarters of the votes, a personal record.

"People who voted for Putin voted for stability and denial of change," said political expert Pavel Sharikov of the state-chartered Russian Academy of Sciences.

"Putin heavily relies on his team. If he formally retires, he and his closest allies will still remain in power," Sharikov told dpa.

When Putin‘s second term of four years ended in 2008, he backed a close friend from his hometown, Dmitry Medvedev, for the presidency. Putin stepped back from the helm to became prime minister.

It has been commonly described as the chess move "castling," a one-time action whereby the king switches places with a rook for added protection.

While Putin was prime minister, the constitution was amended to extend the presidential term to six years. Medvedev served one term at the previous rate, then Putin resumed the presidency.

On Sunday night, a predictably victorious Putin shrugged off speculation when a reporter asked about whether he would seek another term in 2030.

"What you are saying is a little funny," Putin said in televised comments. "You think I‘m going to be sitting here for a hundred years? No!"

Putin last year replaced numerous ageing governors with younger technocrats, prompting speculation that he could be grooming a successor.

Before that he‘d also replaced the head of his presidential administration in a similar fashion.

"I imagine that at the very least Putin would like it to be his last term. The fact that he only gave a two-minute speech at his ‘victory event‘ last night hardly communicates enthusiasm," said Mark Galeotti, senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations Prague.

"The question is whether he can find a suitable successor he feels he can trust and a constitutional arrangement that will guarantee him his security and continued status but allows him to pass on the tedious business of running the country," Galeotti told dpa.

Putin in the 1990s proved a loyal ally of then-president Boris Yeltsin while working in the presidential administration.

Putin, who had long served in the Soviet KGB, was appointed head of its main successor agency, the FSB, a year before he became prime minister on Yeltsin‘s blessing.

A few months after becoming prime minister, Putin ascended to the presidency.

Who could succeed Putin will remain a mystery until perhaps late into Putin‘s new term to avoid a possible power struggle, said Russian security expert Nabi Abdullaev.

"Putin will keep his choice secret until the very last moment, like he demonstrated in 2007 when he chose Medvedev as his successor just few months before the election," said Abdullaev, associate director for Russia at the global consultancy Control Risks Group.

"Nominating someone early is risky for Putin, who would not want to become a lame duck," Abdullaev told dpa. Putin "would want to stay in a position that will allow him significant influence even after he departs the top formal post."


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