You’ve probably heard by now that Vladimir Putin has an interesting solution to being term-limited out of the Russian presidency — become Prime Minister.
Here’s an explanation from Slate:
For the past 15 years, [the Prime Ministerial post] has gone to figureheads, technocrats, and relatively unknown economists, some very young. Presidents Yeltsin and Putin both hired and fired prime ministers at will: Russia has thus had 10 prime ministers in the past 10 years, many of them unknown to the general public.
There is, however, nothing in the Russian Constitution that prevents the Russian prime minister from becoming the de facto leader of the country—if the president doesn’t object. And if the president is going to be Victor Zubkov, or some other figurehead from Putin’s secret inner circle, presumably he won’t object. Or he’ll be paid not to object. Or he’ll be blackmailed not to object. Or he’ll deem it in the best interests of his own personal safety not to object. Thus Putin can go on ruling Russia, presumably indefinitely.
It’s quite a neat trick, if you think about it: It’s as if George W. Bush decided to step down from office, run for Congress in 2008, declare himself speaker of the House, and declare that the speaker of the House would, from then on, take over the president’s responsibilities, and run the executive branch. We would call that a de facto coup d’etat. In Russia, it’s constitutional politics.
And the Russians don’t really seem to mind. Witness this quote from an ABC News story: “What would you expect? He’s a fit man of only 55, raised the country from ruin to prosperity,” said Rita Aliyev, a teacher. “It never crossed my mind that he’d retire. It’s great that at least he’s now looking for a democratic way to stay in power.”
Putin’s approval rating is at 77 percent, ruling out the possibility of Dick Cheney trying this ploy.