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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Presidential Term Bill Moves Forward

MTA Yabloko activist holding the sign "We demand bigger pensions, not presidential terms" at the Duma on Wednesday.
The State Duma on Wednesday passed in a crucial second reading legislation that would extend the presidential term to six years.

The bill sailed through the reading by a vote of 351 to 57, with Communist deputies voting against the proposed constitutional amendment and Liberal Democratic Party deputies abstaining.

The bill is all but certain to be passed in a third and final reading Friday, after which it will be sent to the Federation Council for approval, needing to be passed by three-quarters. It must then be approved by two-thirds of the country's regional legislatures.

Both the Communists and the Liberal Democratic Party, or LDPR, proposed amendments to the bill that Vladimir Pligin, head of the Duma Committee on Constitutional Legislation and State Building, refused to put up for consideration, citing procedural rules.

"Arguing today was useless," said Communist deputy Viktor Ilyukhin, who had proposed an amendment barring a president from serving two consecutive six-year terms.

LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky ordered his party members to abstain from Wednesday's vote because the party's proposed changes to the bill were ignored, Interfax reported.

Two LDPR deputies called for the presidential term to be increased to seven years, while Zhirinovsky asked that the bill not refer to the president but rather to the "supreme leader."

Meanwhile, opposition activists Wednesday held one-person pickets outside the Duma protesting the bill.

Yabloko activist Andrei Lazarev huddled in the cold Wednesday morning holding a placard with a 2006 quote from Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov: "Changing the Constitution to suit a particular person is incorrect."

Many critics of the bill have said it is an attempt to pave the way for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to return to the Kremlin for two six-year terms and that President Dmitry Medvedev might step down early.

The opposition uses one-person pickets to avoid police detention for unsanctioned protests. Yabloko activists were standing for half-hour shifts from 9 a.m. to noon, Lazarev said, adding that none of the deputies had stopped to comment.

"All the people who are going into the State Duma just walk past and don't say anything."