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Lawmakers Propose to Extend Putin's Term Limits As President

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a press conference on Friday in Sochi. He has served twice served two consecutive terms as president.

Updated at 8:35 p.m. ET

Lawmakers in Chechnya submitted a proposal on Friday that would allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to run for office in 2024, giving him another six years at Russia's helm.

A president cannot be elected to more than two consecutive terms, according to the country's constitution. The proposed amendment would allow for a third consecutive term.

The measure, posted online and addressed to State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin, a former Putin aide, said that a "complex external political situation" makes it important to have "continuity of state power."

The proposal doesn't come as a surprise to Alina Polyakova, a Russian foreign policy expert at The Brookings Institution. "Whether he is prime minister of agriculture, he will still run the government from the shadows," she told NPR. "The surprise is not whether Putin will try to stay, the surprise will be in how the Kremlin will do it."

Putin was first elected president in 2000. After serving two terms, he switched positions with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who signed into law a measure extending presidential term limits from four to six years. Then Putin successfully ran for president again in 2012 and earlier this year.

After his recent and assured victory, both analysts and admirers described Putin as a vozhd, a term for a political leader that Joseph Stalin embraced.

"I had an opportunity, I was even asked to change the constitution at one time," Putin told NBC last year. "I did not do it, and I don't intend to do it in the future."

The Kremlin said last week that Putin was not planning to change to constitution after Chechen legislators suggested it, Radio Liberty reported.

Because the next presidential election is six years away and Putin's current term has just begun, analysts cast doubt on whether the Kremlin would consider the proposal right now.

Polyakova thinks it is inevitable that he will want to stay in power, if for no other reason than self-protection.

"He has made a lot of enemies. For him to leave, he would need the kind of protection and security that he gave to [former President Boris] Yeltsin in 1999. He protected his entire so-called family from prosecution and from being killed," said Polyakova. "Putin has been in power much longer and he's stolen a lot more money, so he's in a much more vulnerable position. If he leaves power then that's almost a death sentence."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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