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Russian Senators Give Final Nod To Longer Presidency

Is Dmitry Medvedev (left) preparing the way for Vladimir Putin (right)?
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia's upper house of parliament has voted overwhelmingly to give a final nod to a constitutional amendment extending the presidential term from four to six years.

All 142 Federation Council members present voted to endorse a decision by Russia's regional assemblies to support a longer presidency, the last legislative step in the approval process.

President Dmitry Medvedev proposed the reform in his annual address last month. Officials justified the change, which will take effect from the next presidential election in 2012, on the grounds of Russia's size and complexity.

Last month, the State Duma, the lower house, and the Federation Council both passed the amendment, which also extends the term of the State Duma from four to five years.

The amendment will become law once Medvedev has signed it.

Critics of the Kremlin say the change could be part of a plan for former President Vladimir Putin, now Medvedev's powerful prime minister, to return to his old job, although officials deny this.

Earlier this month, Putin hinted that he may return to the top Kremlin job, but not before his close ally Medvedev's term expires in 2012.