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Putin against adoption of new Constitution, but sees logic in more rights for parliament

Putin pointed to the fact that there are "basic things" stated in the fundamental law, which were still to be implemented in full

MOSCOW, December 19. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin is against the adoption of a new constitution, but at the same time understands the logic of the current discussion over giving the Russian parliament more rights.

"As for the constitution, it is a living instrument. It must agree with the level of society’s development. Yet, I believe that we should not change the constitution or adopt a new one," he told the customary year-end news conference in Moscow on Thursday.

He pointed to the fact that there are "basic things" stated in the fundamental law, which were still to be implemented in full.

"This concerns Chapter One (The Basics of the Constitutional System - TASS). The way I see it, it is sacrosanct," Putin explained.

In his opinion everything else can be changed one way or another in principle.

Putin confirmed that he was aware of the ongoing discussion and understood the "logic of those who propose such things" (amendments to the constitution - TASS). "This involves the expansion of the rights of parliament and changes to some prerogatives of the president and the government," he explained.

"But this can be done only after proper preparations and a fundamental discussion in society, but very delicately," Putin said.

Debate over the constitution

The Russian Constitution was adopted in a referendum on December 12, 1993. Experts say it is one of the most stable legal acts of this sort in the world. A number of amendments have been made to it over the past 25 years - prolongation of the presidential term of office from four years to six and of the powers of State Duma members from four years to five, the merger of the Supreme and Arbitration courts, the appointment of presidential senators, and specifications to the list of constituent territories of the Russian Federation. The basics of the fundamental law, such as the rights and freedoms of citizens, the functions and responsibilities of the state and the principles of federalism and the distribution of powers remain the same.

The issue of the feasibility of changes to the constitution has been raised several times over years. According to an opinion poll published on the website of the Public Opinion Foundation on December 9, 68% of the polled Russians called for amendments to the constitution and for its revision, while 17% opposed this and 15% remained undecided. Taking part in the November 30 - December 1 opinion poll were 1,500 respondents.

At the end of 2018 Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin at a meeting with the president suggested inviting Constitutional Court judges and the leading scholars and experts to scrutinize the current constitution for adequacy to the current realities. Later, Volodin said that the constitution lacked the proper balance of branches of power and it would be expedient to give the Russian parliament more rights in the field of control of law enforcement.

Volodin called for "specifying and detailing the government’s accountability to parliament on issues raised by the State Duma, including those concerning law enforcement." Also, he believes it would be reasonable to consider the issue of the State Duma’s participation in consultations over appointing government ministers.