Vladimir Putin said parliament should be granted more powers, including the ability to select the prime minister. The Russian president's term will end in 2024, with the constitution currently requiring him to step down.
Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed changing the constitution to give parliament more power, adding that a referendum should be held to approve the changes.
"I consider it necessary to conduct a vote by the country's citizens on an entire package of proposed amendments to the country's constitution," Putin said in an annual address to lawmakers on Wednesday. He did not specify a timeline or date for the referendum.
The constitutional amendments proposed by Putin would give parliament the power to pick Russia's prime minister and cabinet ministers. That power currently lies with the president.
Valentina Matvienko, the speaker of Russia's Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, told Russian state television station Rossia 24 that the "president has shared his powers." She explained that the proposed changes would "significantly increase" the role of both houses of parliament and would make the working of parliament more "transparent."
"We have a lot of work," she added.
Political changes ahead of term end
Putin added that he did not want to change Russia's strong presidential system. He also said he wanted to tighten the criteria for candidates who want to run for president.
Analysts were watching Putin's speech closely for indications about possible changes to Russia's political system ahead of 2024, when Putin's term ends. The constitution currently limits presidents to two terms, requiring him to step down in 2024.
"I wouldn't exclude that Putin sees himself taking on the speaker's chair in the parliament in the future," political analyst Abbas Gallyamov told DW, explaining that the Russian president gave a lot of detail on how the proposed reforms would change the work of the Duma, the lower house of parliament, which he proposed would appoint the cabinet.
"Since Putin's main task now is to secure his own political future, we can assume he is paving the way for himself there," he added. Gallyamov is a former speechwriter for Putin.
Opposition leader: 'Putin wants to stay in power forever'
Leader of the Civic Initiative party and former Economics Minister of Economic Development Andrey Nechayev expressed concern about Putin's proposed changes.
"Putin is sounding out the terrain, in order to stay in power forever," Nechayev told DW.
Other observers have also speculated that Putin may try to stay in power by shifting into the prime minister's seat, among other moves.
Writing on Facebook, political analyst Alexander Pozhalov called Putin's suggestions "wide-reaching" and says they leave Putin "a broad corridor of possibilities for political maneuver" while also "strengthening Russia's public power institutions."
Pozhalov also sees Putin taking on a leading role in the Duma or in the State Council, which is made up of regional governors.
Putin has been at the helm in Russia for over 20 years — longer than any other Russian or Soviet leader since Josef Stalin.
More help for poorer families
Putin also pledged more support for low-income families, in a bid to encourage population growth.