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Examining the legitimacy and legality of the ad hominem term-limit waiver for the incumbent President of the Russian Federation

Motion for a resolution | Doc. 15446 | 27 January 2022

Signatories:
Mr Pieter OMTZIGT, Netherlands, EPP/CD ; Ms Krista BAUMANE, Latvia, ALDE ; Mr Uldis BUDRIĶIS, Latvia, EPP/CD ; Mr Iulian BULAI, Romania, ALDE ; Mr Erkin GADIRLI, Azerbaijan, EC/DA ; Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO, Ukraine, EC/DA ; Mr Christoph HOFFMANN, Germany, ALDE ; Mr John HOWELL, United Kingdom, EC/DA ; Ms Gyde JENSEN, Germany, ALDE ; Ms Maria JUFEREVA-SKURATOVSKI, Estonia, ALDE ; Ms Olena KHOMENKO, Ukraine, EC/DA ; Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK, Ukraine, ALDE ; Mr Eerik-Niiles KROSS, Estonia, ALDE ; Mr Konstantin KUHLE, Germany, ALDE ; Mr Michael Georg LINK, Germany, ALDE ; Mr Arminas LYDEKA, Lithuania, ALDE ; Mr Kęstutis MASIULIS, Lithuania, EPP/CD ; Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA, Ukraine, EPP/CD ; Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN, Ireland, ALDE ; Mr Serhii SOBOLIEV, Ukraine, EPP/CD ; Mr Raivo TAMM, Estonia, EPP/CD ; Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO, Ukraine, EPP/CD ; Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS, Lithuania, EPP/CD

In July 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin enacted 206 amendments to the Constitution, including an ad hominem provision waiving his own presidential term-limits. The waiver allows Mr Putin –continuously in power as President or Prime Minister since 2000– to remain in office until 2036.

Serious doubts have been raised about the legitimacy and legality of the amendments. In its Interim Opinion No. 992/2020 of 23 March 2021, the European Commission for Democracy Through Law (Venice Commission) concluded that procedures used for amending the Russian Constitution were “clearly inappropriate”. In particular, the Venice Commission noted that several amendments contradict Chapters 1 and 2 of the Constitution; that their passage violated the legal provision that amendments be grouped by interrelated topics rather than adopted en bloc; and that they were ratified in an ad hoc “nationwide vote” held outside of the scope of the Russian law on referenda and Russia’s international commitments, with no airtime given to opponents and no obligation for State institutions to remain neutral.

Previously, in its report on term limits of 20 March 2018 (CDL-AD(2018)010), the Venice Commission stated that “term-limits on the office of the President… are a check against the danger of abuse of power” and that “such amendments (if enacted) should have effect only for future holders of the office, not for the incumbent”.

In view of the Russian Federation’s upcoming presidential election in 2024, the Parliamentary Assembly should appoint a rapporteur to examine the legitimacy and legality –or lack thereof– of the ad hominem term-limit waiver for the incumbent President, and what this entails for international recognition of the election should the waiver provision be used.