Russian President Vladimir Putin has appointed the head of the tax service Mikhail Mishustin as the country’s new prime minister, according to the Kremlin.
The 53-year-old Mischustin has worked in the government since 1998 and has been the head of the Federal Tax Office since 2010.
The Russian prime minister made the appointment Wednesday after surprisingly turning the leadership of Russia upside down, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev resigned.
Putin proposed changes to the constitution that could keep him in power well beyond the end of his term in 2024.
He emphasized that constitutional changes must be voted on in a nationwide referendum.
Medvedev resigned after Putin announced the proposed constitutional changes.
Putin kept his long-time ally in the Kremlin’s leadership structure and appointed him to the newly created post of deputy head of the President’s Security Council.
The shock sent shockwaves through Russia’s political elites who were considering Putin’s intentions and speculating about future cabinet appointments.
Medvedev has been prime minister for almost eight years.
After Putin’s first two terms in 2008, Medvedev was the placeholder president from 2008 to 2012 and appointed his mentor as prime minister, although Putin continued to exercise power.
Under Medvedev, the constitution was changed to extend the president’s term from four to six years.
Medvedev said in television comments that he must step down in the light of Putin’s proposed changes in government.
Putin proposed to amend the constitution so that the legislature could appoint prime ministers and cabinet members. The President is currently authorized to make these appointments.
“It will strengthen the role of parliament and parliamentary parties, the powers and independence of the prime minister and all cabinet members,” said Putin to an audience of top officials and lawmakers.
At the same time, Putin argued that Russia would not remain stable if it were governed by a parliamentary system.
The president should retain the right to fire the prime minister and cabinet ministers, appoint senior defense and security officers, and direct the Russian military and law enforcement agencies, he said.
Putin has been in power longer than any other Russian or Soviet leader since Josef Stalin, who was in charge from 1924 until his death in 1953.
He will have to step down in 2024 after his term ends under current law, which restricts the president to two consecutive terms.
Observers speculated that Putin could remain in command by moving to the prime minister’s seat after heightened parliamentary and cabinet powers and reduced the president’s authority.
Political scientist Dmitry Oreshkin said Putin’s speech made it clear that he was considering the move to the Prime Minister.
“Putin is pushing the idea of maintaining his authority as a more powerful and influential prime minister as the presidency becomes more decorative,” said Oreshkin.
Originally published as Putin, he names Tax Service Chief as the new prime minister