Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday proposed shifting major powers from the presidency to the State Duma, the lower house of the country’s Parliament, including to choose the country’s Prime Minister and other ministers.

The resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev — a longtime Putin ally came after the president used his annual state of the nation address to propose a package of constitutional reforms that would strengthen parliament’s role.

Speculation has swirled about changes to Russia’s political system that would allow Putin to stay on after 2024 when he is due to step down after a fourth Kremlin term.

Addressing to the legislature, he said a nationwide referendum should be held on these proposals, which will weaken the power of the Presidency, the post he holds till 2024.

Soon after over an hour-long address, the government led by Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev submitted its resignation.

Accepting the resignation, Putin later appointed Mikhail Mishustin as the new Prime Minister. So far, 53-year-old Mishustin, the chief of the Federal Tax Service, is seen as a capable technocrat with almost no political ambitions.

Putin thanked Medvedev — who also served as Russian president for four years from 2008 — and suggested that he take on a role as deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, which Putin chairs.

Re-elected to a six-year term in 2018, Putin has seen his approval ratings fall to some of their lowest levels, though still far above those of most Western leaders.

Recent polls put Putin’s rating at 68-70 per cent, up a few points from a year ago but down from a high of more than 80 per cent at the time of his last election.

The state of the nation address — delivered in the Manezh exhibition hall next to the Kremlin — is one of three big annual Putin events, along with a marathon press conference and live phone-in where he takes questions from the Russian public.

(With inputs from agency)