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Putin suggests plebiscite on proposed package of constitutional amendments

Putin said that he sees no grounds to adopt new constitution in Russia

MOSCOW, January 15. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested holding a plebiscite on the entire package of constitutional amendments he has proposed.

"Given that the proposed reforms concern significant changes to the political system, the work of the legislative, executive and judicial authorities, I believe it is necessary to hold a plebiscite on the entire package of the proposed amendments to the Russian Constitution," Putin said in his annual State of the Nation Address to the Federal Assembly.

At the same time, Putin said that he sees no grounds to adopt new constitution in Russia.

Putin also offered to accord priority to the Russian Constitution within the Russian legal space.

"It is time to make some changes to the fundamental law of the country, which would guarantee the priority of the Russian Constitution in our legal space. What does this mean? It means that requirements of international law and decisions of international bodies can only be enforced in Russia to such an extent that does not violate human and civil rights and freedoms and does not violate our Constitution," Putin said.

He added that this would guarantee the country’s sovereignty. "The sovereignty of our people must be unconditional. We have done a lot to achieve this: we have recovered the country’s unity, putting an end to the situation when oligarch clans virtually usurped some state and government functions. Russia has returned to international politics as a country whose opinion is respected," the Russian leader added.

He stressed that Russia had established powerful resources that could protect the national economy from any attempts at outside pressure.

Russia recognized the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in 1998, having ratified the European Convention on Human Rights. Although all ECHR rulings are obligatory, the Russian president approved a law in December 2015, which states that the court’s decisions will only be executed if they do not violate the Russian constitution.

In April 2016, the Constitutional Court of Russia used the right to block an EHCR verdict for the first time by declining to provide voting rights to convicts. In 2017, the Russian court blocked the decision of the EHCR regarding the Yukos case, which obliged Russia to provide a compensation to the tune of 1.866 bln euro.

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 - extension 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 Russian federal subjects. 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.

A united system of power

Putin has also offered to incorporate principles of a united system of power in the Russian constitution in order to avoid discrepancies between government and municipal bodies.

"I think it necessary to incorporate the principles of a united system of public government in the Constitution, building effective cooperation between state and municipal bodies," Putin said. The president noted that real powers of local governments "must be expanded and reinforced."

He pointed out a divide between state and municipal bodies of power, noting that this "entanglement of powers" affects people negatively, leading to issues in the sphere of education, healthcare and other areas. "Shared rights, freedoms and guarantees stipulated in the legislation are enforced differently in different regions and municipalities," the Russian leader noted, adding that this situation is unfair to Russian citizens, carrying a direct threat to the Russian society and the country’s integrity.

"Our goal is to ensure a high standard of living, equal opportunities for every person on the entire territory of the country," Putin concluded, noting that all national projects and development plans are aimed to achieve this objective.