Russia votes for extension of the Putin era

Russia has adopted the major constitutional revision that allowed Vladimir Putin to remain in the Kremlin until 2036, a referendum declared by the opposition that sees it as a maneuver to defend its hold on the country.

The Russians validated to 74.1% by referendum, Wednesday, July 1, a block of amendments that, in addition to the question of the president’s mandate in office, also introduces his conservative principles in the constitution, according to results related to nearly 30% electoral stations distributed over the major Russian territory and distributed by the Central Election Commission.

Participation was approximately 65%.

There was never any doubt about the outcome of the election: the reform was approved by the legislature at the beginning of the year and the new text of the constitution is already in sale in bookstores.

Vladimir Putin, for his part, asked the Russians on Tuesday to guarantee “stability, security and prosperity” in the country, which he boasts of having come from the Soviet chaos.

The vote, originally scheduled for April, was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In order to avoid excessive crowds at the polling stations, it took place for a week and voters had to wear protective masks and gloves.

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The most controversial amendment gives Vladimir Putin the opportunity for two more terms after the current 2024. A necessity, he said, because the political class must not get lost in “a pursuit of potential successors”.

Guarantee “a Presidency for Life”?

This change would allow him to stay in the Kremlin until 2036, the year of his 84th birthday. Other amendments strengthen certain presidential rights.

The revision also introduced in the constitution conservative principles dear to the president – faith in God, marriage reservations for heterosexual, patriotic education – as well as social guarantees, such as indexing pensions.

Yulia Zabolotova, an 83-year-old pensioner, was enthusiastic at a Moscow election station on Wednesday: “You have to support Putin, I never lived as well as he did. He lifted the country from chaos!”.

Vladimir Putin’s deterrent, especially opponent Alexei Navalny, says that the referendum has no purpose other than to guarantee him “a presidency for life” and that the other measures aimed at getting the Russians to go to the polls.

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Sergei Lepnukhov, a 47-year-old lawyer in Moscow, did not take off. “We must not touch the constitution, it must be unchangeable (…) but (Putin) wants to take power, so he found a back door. It is shameful and unfortunate.”

A small group of Muscovites expressed their displeasure at Pushkin Square, in the center of Moscow, and in the early evening of Wednesday, without being disseminated by police present in numbers and despite the ban on rallies introduced because of the new corona virus.

Tailor-made success

The vote came in the light of the dwindling popularity of Vladimir Putin due to a dried pension reform and the Covid-19 crisis. From May 2018 to June 2020, the approval rating for its policy, measured by the Independent Levada Institute, dropped from 79% to 60%.

According to critics from the Kremlin, the authorities have multiplied the tricks to ensure a successful success and a strong turnout in voting.

The most unusual aspect has been the installation of provisional polling places outside, on farms or in playgrounds, without much respect for the secret of voting or adequate monitoring of the ballot boxes. “after the opposition was not to protect the voters from the new corona virus but to make a tailor made result.

NGO Golos, which specializes in election observation and which is not prevented by the authorities, has also declared hierarchical pressure on officials and employees to go and vote.

The Russian electoral commission, for its part, found “no serious crime” during the vote.

With AFP