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Russian MPs give first nod to sweeping constitutional changes proposed by Putin

Russian MPs give first nod to sweeping constitutional changes proposed by Putin
In a unanimous move in the State Duma, lawmakers backed a bill seeking to overhaul several articles of the constitution, just a week after President Putin proposed major amendments to the law including about his own post.

Proposed by Vladimir Putin in his annual state-of-the-nation address, the changes seek to give more powers to parliament, which will be able to pick the prime minister. The premier’s cabinet picks, currently not requiring a nod from MPs, would require parliamentary confirmation and could not be rejected by the president.

They would also limit the president’s overall tenure to only two terms; the individual will also be required to have lived 25 consecutive years in Russia, up from the current 10, and to have never obtained foreign citizenship or a residence permit. There will also be stricter background requirements for top officials and MPs.

The proposed changes also cement the priority of Russian law over international treaties and obligations.

“The meaning of these amendments is to ensure the further development of Russia as a welfare state [governed by] rule of law, increase efficiency of our country’s institutions,” Putin told the task group earlier this month. They are aimed at strengthening civil society, political parties and Russia’s regions, but won’t change the fundamentals of the constitution, he explained.

A total of 432 MPs took part in the vote, adopting the bill in the first reading. In the second reading, set for mid-February, lawmakers are likely to hear from a task group assembled to lay groundwork for prospective changes to Russia’s governing law.

It emerged last week that Russians may be asked to vote on the sweeping amendments as early as May of this year, as a parliamentary source told TASS news agency. Details of the vote are in the works right now, and it is expected to take place during a weekend, the source added.

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