New Delhi: Russia’s government resigned on Wednesday after President Vladimir Putin proposed constitutional reforms triggering speculations over Putin’s future plans. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was a longtime Putin ally which is why the shake-up came as a shock. The head of Russia’s tax service Mikhail Mishustin has been proposed for the post of the prime minister, news agencies reported. Mikhail is a relatively obscure figure. He will face a vote of approval in the Russian parliament within one week.

Putin is to stay as the President till 2024 when he is due to step down after a fourth Kremlin term. Political analysts feel that the constitutional reforms will allow Putin to assume a new post-presidential role,

Medvedev and Putin appeared alongside each other on national television a few hours after Putin’s address to say the government was stepping down. Medvedev said the constitutional proposals would make significant changes to the country’s balance of power and so “the government in its current form has resigned”. “All further decisions will be taken by the president,” he added.

Putin thanked Medvedev — who also served as Russian president for four years from 2008 — and suggested that he take on a role as deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, which Putin chairs.

According to an AFP report, the changes Putin proposed on Wednesday would transfer more authority to parliament, including the power to choose the prime minister and senior cabinet members, instead of the president as under the current system. Other changes would see the role of regional governors enhanced and residency requirements tightened for presidential candidates and other top officials.

Putin has held a firm grip on the country since coming to power with Yeltsin’s resignation in 1999, staying on as prime minister when Medvedev took the presidency. Re-elected to a six-year term in 2018, Putin has seen his approval ratings fall to some of their lowest levels, though still far above those of most Western leaders. Recent polls put Putin’s rating at 68-70 per cent, up a few points from a year ago but down from a high of more than 80 per cent at the time of his last election.