Russian voters appear to approve constitutional changes that could extend Putin’s reign
The Kremlin approved the results of the vote to amend the Russian Constitution
Key Constitutional Amendment Allows Russian President To Stay In Power For Another 16 Years
The Russians overwhelmingly approved the amendments to the country’s constitution in a nationwide vote that lasted a week and ended on Wednesday. Voting results have been criticized by opponents of the Kremlin, who claim falsifications and, in fact, a constitutional coup.
Among the nearly 200 amendments, mainly aimed at consolidating conservative and patriotic values, there was “hidden” an amendment that “nullifies” the previous presidential terms of Vladimir Putin, who can now remain in power until 2036.
The Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation reported that 65% of registered voters took part in the voting, while 78% approved the amendments to the Constitution, and 21% voted against the proposed amendments.
“In fact, a de facto triumphal referendum on confidence in President Putin took place,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, assessing the results of the vote on Thursday evening..
On the eve of the last day of voting, Putin called on all Russians to take part in the vote so that the voice of every citizen of the country is heard. “We vote for the country we want to live in,” Putin said in a video message released ahead of the vote..
The Russian leader in his address did not mention either the amendment guaranteeing the extension of his term, or the fact that both chambers of the Russian parliament had already approved amendments to the country’s Basic Law, which makes the vote in many ways just a semblance of democracy.
Initially, the vote was planned to be held in April, but then Putin decided to move it to June due to the pandemic and the rapid spread of coronavirus in Russia..
Russia on Thursday was in third place in the world in terms of the number of people infected with coronavirus – there were more than 650,000 registered cases of infection in the country.
In order to ensure public safety for voters, the Russian CEC took “exceptional measures”: voting was stretched out for a whole week, electronic voting was introduced in Moscow, and instead of independent observers, the process was followed by government-appointed “observers”.
“Our job is to control the vote, and it was absolutely impossible to control it,” Roman Udot, a spokesman for the independent election observation organization, told Voice of America. – We have never had the experience of voting stretched out over a week. People voted on the streets, on lawns, in parks … everywhere. “.
The voters’ temperature was measured, they were also provided with masks, gloves and individual pens for ballots. Ballot boxes were disinfected every few hours.
“It’s completely safe,” said the head of a polling station in downtown Moscow, who introduced herself as Nina Pavlovna in an interview with Voice of America..
In an effort to boost turnout, prize draws have also been announced, ranging from free pizza and soccer balls to lotteries that raffled off smartphones, cars and even apartments..
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny compared this process to a theatrical performance.
“Putin has decided to legalize his presidency for life. United Russia has accepted these amendments. But it’s not beautiful enough when United Russia appoints the tsar. Therefore, Putin said: we will stage an all-Russian performance, declare that more than half of the people recognize this performance as a real vote and come to it, and at the end the curtain will close and it will be written: the result is 72%, ”Navalny said in a video posted 1 july.
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In central Moscow, several hundred demonstrators gathered in Pushkinskaya Square to express outrage that President Putin will remain in power for another 16 years. There were no arrests, although dozens of police cars lined the surrounding streets.
“I don’t know anyone who voted for the amendments,” said 20-year-old Valentina Meshkova, a brand manager in an interview with Voice of America. “Russians think they can’t change anything, although people are tired of Putin and want a better future.” she added, noting that she was disappointed with the low turnout.
“This is a constitutional coup,” said 20-year-old Aleksey, a student whose face was covered by a protective mask with the inscription “No”, “I decided not to participate in this circus … But if they would let me vote for specific amendments, not all right away, I would do it “.
In addition to extending the presidential term, other fairly conservative amendments were made to the Constitution, including a ban on same-sex marriage, a measure to protect the “historical truth” about the actions of the USSR during World War II, and a ban on calls for the “alienation” of Russian territory..
The amendments also included other measures aimed at working families – for example, a promise to reform the pension fund and increase funding for health and education..
Even now, when the vote has already taken place, Putin did not say about his intentions. However, he noted that he “does not rule out” running for president after the end of his current term in 2024..
“It can be seen that Putin no longer has any support from the majority – something that has defended him for many years and gave him reason to do whatever he wants,” wrote Boris Vishnevsky, a liberal politician from the Yabloko party, on his Telegram channel. – Yes, apparently, the Kremlin thinks that they can do just fine without trust: according to the principle "let them not believe, if only they obey". But practice shows that when the authorities do not believe, in the end, they cease to obey it. And she has to leave “.
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