The lower house of the Russian Parliament on Saturday passed a bill extending the term of the office of the President from four to six years, a move critics say may lead to return of Vladmir Putin to the presidency.
The extension will not affect the incumbent Dmitry Medvedev, who was elected earlier this March.
In his first state of the nation address to the parliament on November 5 Medvedev had proposed to 'correct' the Constitution by extending the presidential term by two years and the State Duma's (Lower house)term by one year to five years.
The bill opposed by the Communist Party was approved in the first reading by over 86 per cent votes of the 450 strong lower house dominated by the pro-Kremlin United Russia party and loyalists like Vladimir Zhirinovsky of Liberal-Democratic Party (LDPR).
"Four years is too little for our huge country. People with more experience work better. When you choose a doctor, you'd prefer someone with 20 years of experience rather than two years, right? It's the same here," fire-brand leader Zhirinovsky said.
Earlier, welcoming the move to amend the Yeltsin era constitution Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that there was 'nothing personal' and he does not intend to return to top job shortly. Many expect that Medvedev could step down after the constitutional amendment to pave way for Putin's 12 year presidency of two consecutive six-year terms.
The bill today approved by the Duma would have to go through two more readings before it is sent to the Federation Council (upper house) for approval before it is signed into law by Medvedev.