KREMLIN: Russian President, Vladimir Putin easily won opposition-denounced constitutional referendum that would allow him to stay in the Kremlin until the age of 84
- Vladimir Putin won the constitutional referendum by a large margin in order to run for two new terms.
- The revision also introduces into the Constitution conservative principles dear to the president.
- Putin’s detractors believe that the referendum has no other purpose than to guarantee him “a presidency for life” and that the other measures have only aimed at getting the Russians to the polls.
Russia has adopted the vast constitutional revision authorizing Vladimir Putin to remain in the Kremlin until 2036, a referendum denounced by the opposition who sees it as a manoeuvre to perpetuate his grip on the country.
The Russians validated at 74.1% this block of amendments which, in addition to the question of the mandates of the president in office, also introduce its conservative principles in the Constitution, according to results relating to nearly 30% of the polling stations distributed on the huge Russian territory and released Wednesday by the Central Election Commission. The participation was around 65%.
An unsurprising victory
Doubt never weighed on the outcome of the election: the reform was approved by the legislator at the beginning of the year and the new text of the Constitution is already on sale in bookstores.
Vladimir Putin, for his part, asked the Russians on Tuesday to guarantee “stability, security and prosperity” for Russia, which he prides himself on having escaped from post-Soviet chaos.
The ballot, originally scheduled for April, was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. To avoid excessive crowds at polling stations, it took place over a week and voters had to wear protective masks and gloves.
The most controversial amendment: that granting Vladimir Putin the option of two additional mandates at the end of the current one in 2024. A necessity according to him, because the political class must not get lost in “a quest for potential successors”.
Faith in God, heterosexual marriage, patriotic teaching
This change would allow him to stay in the Kremlin until 2036, the year of his 84th birthday. Other amendments strengthen certain presidential prerogatives.
The revision also introduced into the Constitution conservative principles dear to the president – faith in God, marriage reserved for heterosexuals, patriotic education -, as well as social guarantees, such as indexation of pensions.
Yulia Zabolotova, an 83-year-old retiree, was enthusiastic at a Moscow polling station on Wednesday: “You have to support Putin, I have never lived as well as with him. He raised the land of chaos! ”
“A huge lie”
Vladimir Putin’s detractors, including opponent Alexei Navalny, say that the referendum has no other purpose than to guarantee him “a presidency for life” and that the other measures aimed at getting the Russians to the polls. Navalny denounces a “huge lie”.
Sergei Lepnukhov, a 47-year-old Moscow lawyer, did not take off. “We must not touch the Constitution, it must be inalienable (…) but (Potin) wants to seize power, so he found a back door. It is shameful and unfortunate. ”
A small group of Muscovites expressed their dissatisfaction in Pushkin Square, in the centre of Moscow, and in the early evening Wednesday, without being dispersed by the police present in number and despite the ban on rallies imposed because of the new coronavirus, according to AFP journalists.
The vote came against the background of Mr Poutine’s declining popularity due to a decried pension reform and the Covid-19 crisis. From May 2018 to June 2020, the approval rate of its policy measured by the independent Levada institute dropped from 79% to 60%.
According to critics of the Kremlin, the authorities have multiplied the tricks to ensure resounding success and strong electoral participation in the ballot. The most unusual aspect will have been the installation of makeshift voting places outside, in the courts or on playgrounds, without much respect for the secrecy of the vote or adequate surveillance of the ballot boxes. The aim of the manoeuvre, according to the opposition, was not to protect the electorate from the new coronavirus but to produce a tailor-made result.
The NGO Golos, which specializes in election observation and is disdained by the authorities, has also denounced hierarchical pressure on officials and employees to go and vote. The Russian electoral commission, for its part, found “no serious offense” during the poll.