Vladimir Putin said he’ll consider running for a fifth presidential term in 2024, arguing that the hunt for any successor risks paralyzing Russia’s government as the next election nears.
“I don’t rule out such a possibility,” if the necessary amendment to the constitution is approved, Putin said in a Rossiya 1 television documentary broadcast late Sunday. “I haven’t made up my mind yet.”
On July 1, Russians will vote on the most sweeping changes to the nation’s constitution since it was adopted almost 30 years ago. One of the amendments would allow Putin, 67, to reset his term limit to zero even though he’s already served four, and to helm the country for two more six-year terms when his current one expires in 2024. In power since 2000, Putin is already the longest-serving Kremlin leader since Josef Stalin.
Without that amendment, “I can tell you from my own experience that in about two years, instead of the regular rhythmic work on many levels of government, you’d have eyes shifting around hunting for possible successors,” Putin said. “It’s necessary to work, not look for successors.”
A top ally of the Russian president, Andrei Klishas, a senior lawmaker who helped to steer the constitutional overhaul, said that Russians should stop thinking about who will rule after Putin leaves office.
“They should get used to the idea that everything will remain the same, that the president can be re-elected if people support these changes to the Constitution,” Klishas said in an interview with RBC newspaper published Monday. “This amendment allows us to put aside the issue of successors, transfer of power and so on.”
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, on Monday denied the president’s comment meant the political system he built was incapable of functioning in the event of a change of leadership. But he said speculation over potential successors “is a characteristic of our national bureaucracy.”
For the moment, Putin’s main goal is to avoid becoming a “lame duck” in the final years of his current mandate, said Leonid Davydov, a political analyst at the Foundation for Civil Society Development in Moscow. But there is “little doubt” that the Russian president will choose to run again for election, he said.
In the same state-TV interview Sunday, Putin also harshly criticized neighboring states for absorbing “traditional Russian historic territories” on independence in 1991 that they had acquired during the existence of the Soviet Union.
These states should have “left with what they arrived, rather than taking with them presents from the Russian people,” he said.
Russia, which annexed Crimea in 2014 from Ukraine, restoring control over the peninsula that had been Russian until 1954, doesn’t have any territorial claims on its neighbors, Peskov told reporters Monday on a conference call, in response to a question about this comment.