Russian President Vladimir Putin says he has yet to decide whether to run again when his current term ends in 2024-- an option that was opened for him after the Kremlin pushed through controversial constitutional amendments last year.
Putin, 69, has been president or prime minister since 1999 and critics say the constitutional amendments, which paved the way for him to stay in the presidency until 2036, are an effort to keep in power for life.
Answering a journalist's question at an investment forum in Moscow on November 30, Putin reiterated his earlier claim that the amendments "stabilize the situation in the country."
"According to the constitution, I have a right to get elected to a new term. Whether I will do it or not, I have yet to decide.... But the existence of such a right already is stabilizing the internal political situation, which is enough at this moment," Putin said.
Before the amendments, Russian presidents were forbidden from seeking a third consecutive six-year term. Putin is currently in his second consecutive term, his fourth overall term since 2000.
The amended legislation, among other things, reset Putin's term-limit clock to zero, allowing him to seek reelection when his current term expires in 2024, and again in 2030 if he decides to do so.
Some analysts have said Putin could have become a lame duck if he had not had the option of running again in 2024 –-- something that may have undermined his current hold on power.
The referendum on the amendments held last year sparked protests in Moscow that were quickly quashed. The Kremlin has since moved to further stifle dissent, including a crackdown on independent media.
Putin is still widely popular, but his approval ratings have sunk to some of their lowest levels during any period of his rule. Critics say Putin has weakened democratic institutions, persecuted political opponents, stifled criticism, and allowed corruption to flourish.
Putin's supporters credit him with strengthening the country and its economy after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the crises of the 1990s.
The European Union criticized one of the constitutional amendments that gave Russian law primacy over its international commitments, which defied the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, of which Moscow is a signatory.