A move by Vladimir Putin has all but confirmed suspicions the Russian president is plotting to maintain his grip on power for as long as he lives.
On Wednesday morning (Australian time), lawmakers voted in favour of a proposal that could give Mr Putin the green light to serve two extra back-to-back terms – allowing him to rule until 2036.
But first, whether his second consecutive term in office comes to an end in 2024 will come down to a nationwide vote in April that will determine if the move to reset his presidential term tally to zero is adopted.
Before the public can have their say, the proposed constitutional amendments which Mr Putin gave his blessing for while addressing the lower house of parliament on Wednesday (Australian time), must go through two more rounds of approval.
It will then need to get clearance from the Constitutional Court before a public vote on April 22 can be held.
In January, the 67-year-old Mr Putin unveiled his plan for constitutional overhaul that could see him side step into a different role and make the new president more of a figurehead position. It was a move thought to signal a clear intention to find a way to rule long after 2024 when his second sequential, and fourth presidential, term ends.
“The proposal to remove restrictions for any person, including the incumbent president … In principle, this option would be possible, but on one condition – if the constitutional court gives an official ruling that such an amendment would not contradict the principles and main provisions of the constitution,” Mr Putin said.
A former KGB officer, Mr Putin – who has served a stint as prime minister as well as four presidential terms – had previously said he would abide by the law and step down in 2024.
MP Valentina Tereshkova, who is an outspoken supporter of Mr Putin, said the proposal to extend his time in office will promote stability in Russia.
“I don’t know if the president is ready to run in that election but what I know for sure is that the very existence of this possibility for the current president, given his huge authority, is a stabilising factor for our society,” she told CNN.