Authoritarian Succession Management by Amendments: The Case of Putin’s 2020 Constitutional Reform

The paper addresses the question of when and why constitutions are amended under authoritarianism. The recently proposed amendments to the Russian constitution raise fundamental legal questions with regard to the separation of powers by introducing a new constitutional organ – the State Council – without defining its competences. On the other hand, the extensive reshuffle of competences from and to state institutions – including the State Duma, the Federation Council, the Prime Minister, the Presidency and the Constitutional Court – suggests that the reform serves as a complex act of balancing the interests of key stakeholders in the ongoing succession process within the elite. This would not be achieved by a simple abolition of the presidential terms limits. The case of Russia thus contributes to a rising body of literature on the meaning of constitutions in non-democratic settings.