On January 15, 2020 Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered his annual state-of-the-nation address to Russian lawmakers in Moscow. During the 2018 adress, Putin revealed 6 high-tech weapons systems (hypersonic weapons) which were developed in order to preserve strategic parity that was being undermined by the US and NATO. In the 2020 adress, Putin proposed several changes to the Russian constitution that are aimed at strengthening the Russian Federation’s national sovereignty.
Among others, the proposals include the following:
- To guarantee the primacy of the Constitution of the Russian Federation on the territory of Russia over international law and international treaties. Previously, the Russian state followed the principle of the primacy of international law over its national laws.
- To ban prime ministers, governors and other key officials to have foreign citizenship or residence permit at the constitutional level.
- To update the requirement for presidential candidates. This should include the residence in Russia for 25 years and the absence of foreign citizenship.
- To introduce in the Constitution the corresponding status and role of the State Council (an advisory body to the Russian head of state).
- To increase the responsibility of the Federal Assembly (the two-chamber Parliament) for the formation and activities of the government and entrust the State Duma (the lower house of the Parliament) with the approval of the prime minister. The President will not have the right to reject the approved candidacy.
- The President should appoint of heads of law enforcement agencies, after consultation with the Federation Council.
- To strengthen the role of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation. At the request of the president, it should verify the constitutionality of bills and other documents.
- To allow the Federation Council (the upper house of the Parliament), on the recommendation of the President of Russia, to remove from office judges of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts in response to their misconduct defaming honor and dignity.
Aditionally, Putin noted that there is an opinion that the word “in a row” in limiting two presidential terms can be removed. However, he noted that this is not fundamental.
Following the adress, Central Election Commission Secretary Maya Grishina revealed that the vote on amendments to the Russian Constitution may be held in 2020 already.
If all the amendments to the Constitution are accepted, this will mark a tectonic shift in the Russian internal and foreign policy. The ‘nationalization of elites’ (via the ban on foreign citizenships or residence permits), the primacy of the Constitution over international law and other steps are openly aimed at strengthening the Russian state and its sovereignity in the conditions of the growing instability on the international scene, public and rough violations of international law by key global actors and the increasing confrontation among world powers. This is especially important amid the collapse of the existing system of international relations, including key international security treaties.
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