Russia extends presidential term

Russian lawmakers have approved Medvedev-proposed constitutional amendments extending the presidential term from four to six years.

The State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, voted 388-58 on Friday to pass the bill submitted by the Kremlin, AP reported.

Medvedev announced plans for the first ever changes to the 1993 constitution during his first state of the nation address earlier this month.

The bill, which has won Putin’s support, would extend presidential terms to six years and the Duma’s mandate to five years.

Opposition leaders view the move as a means for President Dmitry Medvedev to step down early, making room for twice-elected Vladimir Putin to return to the presidency.

“If we take the scope of power of the current president, he has more power then general secretary (of the Soviet Union), the czar and the pharaoh altogether. He has enough power to solve any issues. And there is not a single element of control over this authority,” said Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, prior to the vote.

The bill, however, will be ratified into law only if both houses of parliament and of two-thirds of Russia’s regional assemblies approve the amendments.

On Thursday, Medvedev sidestepped questions by France’s Le Figaro newspaper concerning his intentions to step down, but assured the new changes would not affect his presidential term.

“I am still working. Why are you pushing me into certain decisions?” he asked.