If I look only at the facts, it seems that:

  • Putin is transferring some power from the President to others (i.e. he's giving up power)
  • Putin has said Russia should not have Soviet-style leaders-for-life
  • Putin is limiting presidents to two terms, thereby ruling himself out of another term as President

This seems consistent with the idea that Putin doesn't want to be dictator-for-life and is setting up a new system where power is more devolved.

However the media has generally seen Putin as having nefarious intentions. For example:

Kremlin critics have been unanimous in their hostility to the reform -- with opposition leader Alexei Navalny saying Putin wants to make himself "leader for life" ...

The reforms will transfer some authority to parliament, including the power to choose the prime minister, and strengthen the role of an advisory body called the State Council, potentially headed by Putin.

One frequent speculation is that Putin, 67, could use that position to continue to shape domestic and foreign policy after his fourth Kremlin term expires in 2024.

But much remains unclear about how the new system would work and why Putin is proposing it now, making it more difficult for opponents of the plan.


All this seems to assume that Putin has some kind of hidden evil intention in proposing these reforms:

  1. I don't see how the reforms leads to Putin making himself leader for life, in fact they appear to be doing the exact opposite.
  2. Sure Putin could potentially head the State Council, but he could also potentially appoint someone else, retire, be abducted by aliens ...
  3. It's not clear to me why it matters "why Putin is proposing it now". Presumably if the constitutional reform is a bad idea, it would be a bad idea independently of why or when Putin is proposing it.

The last paragraph in the quote in particular makes it seem like opponents are opposing because it is Putin proposing it (i.e. if it had been, say, Alexei Navalny proposing the reforms, they would support it), which doesn't make sense to me.

Another example: Putin's plans are all about keeping his hands on levers of power. If this is true he's choosing an awfully roundabout way to do it - why not take the much more straightforward way and abolish the 2-term limit for Russian presidents, increase the number of years a president is elected for from 6 to 8 years, etc?

Is there some (preferably objective) reason to think Putin must have a hidden agenda and not take his proposed reforms at face value?

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    @Fizz no - the linked question's answers are mostly speculation. While it's possible that Putin's reforms are intended to keep him in power, this question asks if there's a reason to take that as the default position. E.g. your answer to the linked question starts with "It's too early to tell", and yet the media / Kremlin critics have already "told" that it's all a plot to keep Putin in power, etc. – Allure Jan 22 '20 at 5:20
  • I wonder why some people voted to close as duplicate after I explained why the linked question doesn't answer my question. – Allure Jan 23 '20 at 0:35

In re "why not take the much more straightforward way and abolish the 2-term limit for Russian presidents, increase the number of years a president is elected for from 6 to 8 years, etc?"

It seems that is not Putin's style... and Russia is not quite China:

There was speculation that Mr Putin might simply remove the two-term limit for president in the constitution. Nothing is ever ruled out, but that would be highly controversial even in Russia's managed-democracy.

When Mr Putin and Dmitry Medvedev did their seat-swap back in 2012, it caused giant street protests. There were more pro-opposition rallies this summer.

The Kremlin probably wants to avoid more of the same, especially in a tough economic climate.

And in somewhat more detail when asked specifically about it, Putin said:

Asked by a war veteran on the occasion of the 77th anniversary of the lifting of the siege of Leningrad if it was time to abolish term limits for presidents altogether, Putin said: “As regards (presidential) terms for staying in power I understand … that (concern over this) is linked for many people with worries about societal, state and domestic and external stability.

“But it would be very worrying to return to the situation we had in the mid-1980s when state leaders stayed in power, one by one, until the end of their days and left office without ensuring the necessary conditions for a transition of power. So thanks, but I think it would be better not to return to that situation.”

So, if you're willing to take his word for it, Putin seems more concerned with preserving his legacy past his grave than with ruling until he dies. That may mean relinquishing some of his power to a chosen successor while he is still around... while still being in control to some extent. Putin seems genuinely concerned that in a power vacuum that follows the death of dictator-like figure, someone like Gorbatchev might come to power, undoing his legacy:

In Putin’s eyes, the heaviest responsibility falls on the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, who was the prime mover of what Putin has called “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the twentieth century.

So, if you want me to put it this way, Putin is hoping to be "president beyond the grave" (to the extent that's possible) and he appears to be willing to make some trade-offs for that in terms of actual power he wields in his last years.

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