Russia has taken the first step towards what could be the return of former leader Vladimir Putin as president.
The lower house of parliament, the Duma, voted to extend the president’s term from four years to six.
United Russia, the party of Putin and of his successor Dmitri Medvedev, ensured the vote was overwelming.
The Russian constitution limited Putin to two presidential terms. Critics fear Medvedev will now step down early, allowing his mentor back as caretaker ahead of new elections which he would almost certainly win.
Russia’s communist leader, Gennady Zyuganov, said the move was wrong:
“I think they should not be proposing these laws, but should immediately change the team handling the economy and finances. The current team cannot handle the global crisis, and the more severe slump which will start in the new year.”
Putin denied the change is aimed at easing him back into the presidency.
But according to analysts, the former president is keen to oversee Russia’s response to the global financial crisis and may find a return to the Kremlin hard to resist.