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Recently (mid January 2020), there has been much press about the government of the Russian Federation "resigning".

From what I understand, these changes were initiated by current Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin (please correct if mistaken).

But why? What is the agenda?

I read this BBC article, and I think it may be a good start. But I've learned to never trust a single article from a single source for such important matters.

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It's too early to tell with much certainty what the [real] reasons are. According to a lengthy CNBC article citing various experts,

  • Putin is proposing to diminish the power of future Russian presidents in a couple of ways:

    • stricter term limits that would not allow a re-election after a gap like Putin enjoyed

    • seemingly removing the power of the President to nominate the PM, a power which would pass to the Duma which would be able to chose between several candidates

There has been speculation whether Putin is doing this because he is planning a future role for himself as heading the Duma, or perhaps he is planning to give increased powers to another body, in which he might take an active role, the State Council (as "father of the nation" as one journalist put it). Or maybe he intends to become PM again.

As for the departure of Medvedev, there's also multi-pronged speculation whether he was the "fall guy" for the not so successful domestic reforms or whether he is going to be recycled in another more consequential position in the future, after the reforms take place. Medvedev's new position of deputy head of the Security Council, has been called "de facto vice president" by some analysts, who also think the plan might be have Medvedev become president again in 2024.

The main point is that we've only seen the opening move of these reshuffling/reforms, so we don't really know what the end result would be. The most certain part of it seems to be the diminished status of the future Russian presidency.

Puting appointing a technocrat PM (Mishustin) who apparently has no political ambitions (and didn't even have an English wikipedia page until yesterday) could mean that Putin either plans to [over]rule from a new position (e.g. State Council) in the future or that he named someone who will present no competition if Putin decides to become PM himself (and the Duma chooses). Which of these two scenarios is likely to happen seems far more open to speculation at the current stage.

There has even been mention, in a newer BBC article, that Putin may be grooming Mishustin to be a very pliable president. An AP article mentions that Putin was not entirely happy with Medvedev's stance on some foreign policy issues [Libya], when the latter was president. Likewise, Medvedev was accused by other Putin associates of encouraging the 2011-2012 street protests, despite Medvedev stepping down to allow Putin to become president again (in 2011). So the reshuffling might also be aimed at giving Medvedev a "lesson" that he is replaceable as "the front man" in the future.

  • appointing a technocrat who apparently has no political ambitions ... Sounds like Yeltsin and Putin. – Vladimir F Jan 17 at 9:38
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Putin is term-limited and would have to vacate the office in 2024. This essentially was making him a lame duck for an extended period of time, and, with that nation's pretense of democratic processes long since abandoned, it was leaving a lot of uncertainty and anxiety over who would eventually be positioned to succeed him.

Basically, this is going to be a way for him to change the Constitution to either void the term limitations of his office, create some kind of a sham position (Postmaster General of Siberia) where he would exert control over his successor as the de-facto ruler of Russia, or, potentially, rule as the Prime Minister (some of his proposed reforms takes powers from the presidency and moves it to the legislature and Prime Minister).

The "whole Russian government" means his administration, not the legislative bodies and elected representatives. This is NOT him making a power play and everyone resigning in protest.

By all of his top administration officials resigning, that gives him a blank slate to reshuffle and re-shape both the positions and the individuals, to facilitate the distribution of power in a way that will enable him to carry out the reforms he wants in place between now and 2024.

In his statement, Medvedev indicated that the government was resigning to clear the way for Putin's proposed reforms.....

..... "In this context, it's obvious that we, as the government ... should provide the president of our country with the opportunity to make all the decisions necessary for this. And in these conditions, I believe that it would be right, in accordance with Section 117 of the constitution," for the government to resign, Medvedev added.

CNN: Russian Government Resigns

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