MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev proposed extending the presidential term by two years on Wednesday, a step analysts said could prepare the ground for Vladimir Putin to return to the Kremlin.
Medvedev, who took over from Putin as head of state in May, said the presidential term should go up from four to six years to allow more time to deal with massive challenges facing Russia and help the country move toward a stable democracy.
He also proposed increasing the powers of parliament over the executive and 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 said in his first state of the nation speech in the Kremlin.
The proposals do not apply to the present terms of the president and the State Duma, a senior Kremlin official was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
Analysts said the decision would give future heads of state — including possibly former president Putin — the chance to rule for two six year terms.
Putin endorsed Medvedev, 43, to replace him when he stepped down in May in line with constitutional term limits. At 56, he remains Russia’s most popular politician and there is speculation he could return to the Kremlin after a Medvedev term.
“In Russia, listen less to the words and look more at the reality,” said Olga Kryshtankovskya, a Russian political analysts who monitors the political elite.
“This is being prepared so that Putin can return for 12 years, so two six-year terms. The next presidential election is in 2012 so we could start speaking about the project Putin-2024.”
Medvedev, whom Putin plucked from relative obscurity as a corporate lawyer in 1999 to join the government, appointed the former KGB spy as his prime minister after taking over as Kremlin chief in May.
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 sufficiently high,” he said as Putin listened in the front row of the audience.
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,” Medvedev said.
Russia’s constitution limits presidents to serving two, consecutive terms lasting four years each.
During Medvedev’s speech, which was peppered with rhetoric against the United States, the benchmark RTS trimmed gains to 3.5 percent by 1048 GMT from around 9 percent earlier.
Traders said the changes could hurt already battered confidence as it raises the question of who really runs Russia.
In his 85-minute address, Medvedev lashed out at corrupt officials who he said were making life a nightmare for businessmen. He also said smaller parties should have more representation in parliament.
Reporting by Aidar Buribayev, Christian Lowe, Maria Kiselyova, Dmitry Solovyov and Tanya Mosolova; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Giles Elgood