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Putin positions himself to be president for life, cites FDR

'There are precedents for elections for more than two terms, including in the United States'

Photo by Alexei Nikolsky/TASS via Getty Images

Russian lawmakers rubber-stamped broad changes to the nation's constitution Wednesday that would allow President Vladimir Putin to run twice more for the presidency after his current term ends in in 2024, if he so chooses.

If the 67-year-old were to run and win both terms — which is almost a foregone conclusion at this point — it would extend his tenure as ruler of Russia to 36 years and make him the longest-serving leader in modern Russian history. To put things in perspective, Josef Stalin served 29 years.

What are the details?

Here's more on the measure from the Associated Press:

The measure must still be approved by the country's Constitutional Court and by a nationwide vote next month before they come into force. Putin's critics called for protests, condemning the move as a way to keep him in office after he hits his term limit in 2024.

The Kremlin-controlled lower house, the State Duma, endorsed a set of amendments to the Russian Constitution and a provision that resets the term count for Putin once the revisions come into force. It passed the chamber by a 383-0 vote with 43 abstentions, and several hours later sailed through the upper house, the Federation Council, by a vote of 160-1 with three abstentions.

The measure was introduced on Tuesday by Valentina Tereshkova, a former cosmonaut who became the first woman in space in 1963, and essentially resets Putin's term limit clock to zero.

The move was supposedly intended to free Putin up from the restraints he would encounter in a lame-duck presidency, but detractors aren't buying it.

According to the New York Times, not all Russians are excited over the prospects of an eternal Putin, or a "quasi-monarchy," as one Russian business magnate put it.

A 24-year-old clothing factory worker noted in conversation with the Times that she would be 40 years old when Putin's renewed two presidential term limit expires in 2036 "and Putin will still be there."

"It drives me a bit crazy," she added.

"Do you want an eternal Putin?" one Kremlin critic said in a YouTube response to the news Wednesday. "Do you want to die under Putin and his whole Kremlin band?"

Putin backed the measure, citing turbulent times and FDR

In a bit of political theater on Thursday, Putin changed his mind and ending up backing the measure that paves the way for his extended rule.

The current president did so because "many countries in the world, especially ours, are engulfed in a highly unstable situation," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to the Financial Times.

"In times like these having a stable, secure, orderly government is very important," Peskov continued, before adding that the term limit extension would "be used just once because of the situation."

The comments from Peskov are in line with the president's own remarks before the the State Duma on Tuesday ahead of the choreographed vote.

"There are precedents for elections for more than two terms, including in the United States," Putin argued. "When a country is going through such upheavals and such difficulties — in our case we have not yet overcome all the problems since the USSR, this is also clear — stability may be more important and must be given priority."

Putin's comments about the United States refer to the third and fourth terms sought and won by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II. Following FDR's death, Congress proposed and ratified the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, which placed a two-term limit on presidents.

The nationwide vote on the measure in Russia is scheduled for April 22.

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