In an unexpected move on Wednesday, Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev resigned together with the entirety of his cabinet. State news media reported that Mikhail Mishustin, the former head of the Federal Tax Service was to be appointed as new prime minister. The reshuffle comes shortly after President Vladimir Putin announced major constitutional changes, which observers say will likely lengthen Putin’s hold on power.
Bryn Rosenfeld, assistant professor of government at Cornell University, is an expert on the politics of Russia and Eastern Europe. In a recent project, Rosenfeld looked at the how economic downturns in Russia affected citizens’ perception – and support – of the ruling party.
“When Putin announced his intention to decamp to the prime ministership back in 2007, it was also hoped his move would strengthen Parliament and transform Russia’s supra-presidential system. Not only did his move do little to strengthen Parliament or rebalance power; Russia emerged from that experiment with an even more powerful executive and Putin personally enhanced his hold on power.
“In general people want change but actually trust Putin more than any other political figure to be the source of that change. Protest sentiment has been declining since summer. Part of that is seasonal; part is that new elections won’t occur until this fall. At this early stage, it’s not clear that this announcement will play poorly with the public. Medvedev’s government was not popular.”