As he had already done many times, Putin declared he has no intention of changing Russia’s constitution to remain in power after his second and last term expires. The constitution currently bars presidents from serving more than two consecutive terms.
Putin confirmed to the experts that he planned to leave the Kremlin. But he added that he wished to use his experience and knowledge for the “benefit of Russia”. He did not speculate.
His statement has launched a new wave of speculation on whether Putin will attempt to remain in power after 2008. Putin has dropped a series of ambiguous hints about his intentions in the past -- as recently as early August, he publicly admitted the possibility that he may wish to run for a third term.
"Maybe I would like that, but our country's constitution does not allow it," Putin said. "I think the most important thing for us in Russia today is stability, which can only be achieved on the basis of the existing law."
A few days later, a legislator from Russia’s far eastern Primorskii Krai suggested that regional lawmakers draft a bill amending the constitution to allow Putin to seek another term. Recent polls have shown that a majority of Russians would give their vote to Putin if he were to run for a third term.
Russian political analysts have reacted with distrust to Putin’s pledge to step down in 2008. Yevgenii Volk, the director of the Heritage Foundation, told RFE/RL that Putin may well still change his mind. “I think this [statement] was meant for the Western audience, to soothe the West’s fears," he said. "But in my opinion, it is no final answer.”
Andrei Piontkovskii, who heads the Center for Strategic Studies, agrees. According to him, Putin may not actually wish to serve another term as president. But he says the “siloviki” -- members of security or military services who gained significantly power under Putin’s tenure -- are likely to pressure him into seeking a third term.
“A very serious fight is going on in Putin’s immediate entourage," Piontkovskii told RFE/RL. "He would prefer not to run himself [for a third term], for a series of reasons -- he has lots of other pleasures in life, and he has a good exit strategy. But the siloviki in his close entourage can’t imagine another option, or even another successor, and insist that he run for a third term.”
Piontkovskii said a constitutional amendment allowing Putin to run for a third term would be easy to secure since the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party holds a majority in both the lower and upper houses of parliament.
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