Sweeping constitutional reforms announced by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin the day before the government resigned and a little-known technocrat was named prime minister caught Russians and the world off guard. Speculation is rife that the shake-up is less about the stated aim of enhancing governance than ensuring he stays in power beyond the expiration of his term in 2024. But after 20 years of Putin at the helm, Russia faces many challenges, among them a stagnant economy and real incomes, endemic corruption, restricted freedoms and poor relations with the West. If he is to continue to garner the support of his country’s people, he needs to put his energies into addressing its problems The reforms, to be put to a referendum, will limit the president’s powers and strengthen those of the parliament and prime minister. There will be no possibility of a repeat of Putin’s tenure; his successors will be limited to two successive terms, which he has achieved on two separate occasions, in between serving four years as prime minister with obviously enhanced capabilities. Under the new arrangement, he would have several options under which he could still maintain control, either becoming premier again, as leader of the ruling United Russia party or in a behind-the-scenes capacity. He has yet to reveal his intentions. Pulling a Xi Jinping? Putin’s power play is not what you think Governance should be about improving livelihoods. In the first eight years of Putin’s presidency, the economy grew on average an annual 7 per cent, fuelled by rising commodity prices. But since the global economic crisis in 2008 and foreign policy moves, including the invasion and occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea, which have earned Western ire and the imposition of sanctions, levels have been lacklustre. With the economy reliant on oil and gas exports, there is an urgent need for diversification. Putin has prided himself on his high popularity and ensured firm backing of Russians through regular handouts; his announcement of the reforms was coupled with more sweeteners. But Russia claims to be a democracy and its leaders are chosen at the ballot box. If he truly cares for his nation, he needs to implement meaningful reforms including genuine political checks and balances, an economic shake-up and a crackdown on corruption.