Medvedev proposes presidential term of 6 years

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev proposed extending the presidential term to six years from four years Wednesday, a step he said was needed to deal with massive challenges facing the country.

Medvedev also proposed increasing the powers of parliament over the executive and helping smaller parties win better representation in parliament. He said the government would have explain its policies every year to parliament.

“(I propose) an increase of the constitutional terms of the president and State Duma (lower house of parliament) to 6 years and 5 years respectively,” Medvedev, who took over as president in May from Vladimir Putin, said in his first state of the nation speech in the Kremlin.

He did not say when the changes would be implemented. But analysts said the decision would give future presidents the chance to rule for two six year terms.

Medvedev, a former corporate lawyer and close Putin ally, took over as president in May. Putin, now prime minister, served two four year terms as president.

Before Putin endorsed Medvedev to succeed him, there had been speculation the presidential term could be extended to allow the former KGB spy to stay in office.

Medvedev said challenges such as the global financial crisis, modernizing the armed forces and preserving stability meant the changes to the presidential term were needed.

“I am convinced that our movement toward freedom and democracy will be successful and steadfast only if the authority of the president and the State Duma will be high,” Medvedev said.

He said that authority should be based “not only on election promises but on the practical results of work if they have enough time to implement what they announced and show the results of their work to the people.”

Reporting by Christian Lowe, Maria Kisyelova, Dmitry Solovyov and Tanya Mosolova; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Ralph Boulton