Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he did not intend to head a newly empowered State Council once his presidency formally ends in 2024.
In comments on March 6, Putin also said he doesn’t want to end presidential term limits.
The remarks add to mounting questions about his future plans, as well as uncertainty about Russia’s political system amid proposed sweeping changes to the country’s constitution.
In January, Putin called for a series of constitutional amendments that amounted to a major reshuffling of future legal powers between the presidency and the parliament.
The country’s parliament is expected to pass a final version of the amendments in the coming weeks, and Russians will vote on them in a referendum on April 22.
Among the amendments is a move to formalize the authority of the State Council, which until now has been merely an advisory body for the Kremlin.
Some Kremlin watchers predicted that enshrining the State Council in the constitution would theoretically allow Putin to retain a supreme leadership role, once his second straight six-year term ends in 2024.
Speaking at a meeting with residents of Ivanovo, a depressed factory city about 300 kilometers northeast of Moscow, Putin was asked about heading the State Council.
“There are suggestions to give the State Council some special powers and [for me to] become the head of that State Council. What will it mean? It will amount to the situation of diarchy in our country. Such a situation is absolutely fatal for Russia,” he said.
He continued: “It is not about me not being willing to [be in power] — no, I do like my job, but setting up a scheme of power that would be unacceptable or destructive for the country for the sake of retaining my personal powers is precisely what I am afraid of and what I do not want to do.”
The Russian leader also said that he thought ending presidential terms would be harmful for Russia’s future even though, he asserted, the country would benefit from political stability.
“Why don’t I want to scrap limits?” Putin said. “It’s not that I fear myself: I’m not going to lose my mind, it’s not about me. Stability, calm development of the country may be more important now, but later when the country becomes more confident and gets richer it will definitely be necessary to ensure government rotation.”
Under the existing constitution, which limits presidents to two consecutive terms, Putin is barred from seeking reelection in 2024.
Putin lamented the state of Russia’s political parties, while also downplaying the idea of turning Russia into a parliamentary republic, something that the proposed amendments appeared to do in part.
“Our country will not do well without a strong presidential power. We do not have stable political parties, which, say in Europe, have been maturing for centuries,” he said.