MOSCOW – Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that a bill that would extend the Russian president's term to six years was not tailored for him and would be a boost for democracy in the country.
The measure could pave the way for a new 12-year presidency for Putin if he decides to seek Russia's highest office again. Lawmakers are moving to fast-track the constitutional change that President Dmitry Medvedev submitted to parliament Tuesday.
Putin said the change "has no personal dimension" and cast it as aiding democracy — which critics say was rolled back dramatically during his two four-year presidential terms.
"We are seeking instruments that would enable us to guarantee sovereignty, to implement our long-term plans, and that would not only not damage but would foster the development of democracy in this country," he said in televised comments at a meeting with the Finnish prime minister.
"As far as I know, the president of the Finnish Republic is elected for six years," Putin said, adding that for decades, France's presidential term was seven years. "In this sense, Mr. Medvedev has not proposed anything unusual."
Putin wouldn't say whether he would seek to return to office.
"As for who will run for office and when, it's too early to talk about that now," Russian news agencies quoted him as saying.
The widely popular Putin — who was barred constitutionally from seeking a third straight term as president — tapped longtime protege Medvedev as his favored successor, ensuring his election in March.
Putin then became prime minister and leader of the United Russia party, which dominates the Duma, and is still widely seen as the man calling the shots in Russia.
He is not barred from running again after a break, and Medvedev's move to extend the presidential term sparked speculation that Putin might not wait until scheduled elections in 2012 to seek a return to the office.