Russians overwhelmingly allowed President Vladimir Putin to potentially extend his two-decade rule until 2036, by approving a package of constitutional amendments. The results of the nationwide election were showed by Russia’s Central Election Commission on Wednesday where over 85% of ballots were counted, out of which 77.8% voters supported the reforms.
Nearly six months ago, President Putin suggested a raft of constitutional changes. The public vote wasn’t necessary as Russia’s parliament already allowed the constitutional changes but Putin insisted on it. The move will allow Putin to stay in power for two more times after his current term expires in 2024.
Earlier, the vote was scheduled for April 22 but it was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country which resulted in an economic downturn, dropping oil prices. The constitutional reformations, besides extending the Presidential limits, revised several conservative and populist measures like – guaranteed minimum pensions, effective ban on gay marriage and much more.
Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow and the chairman of the Russian Domestic Politics and Political Institutions Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote, “Putin is using the public vote to make ordinary people his accomplices in extending his rule and sanctioning the domination of an ultraconservative ideology.”
“If the turnout and votes in favour of changing the constitution are high enough, Putin will be able to use those figures as a license whenever the nation is unhappy, to say: ‘Look, it wasn’t just my administration and I, it was you who wanted this! Together we wanted to uphold this model of governance, and you share responsibility for it with me,’ ” Kolesnikov added.
The 67-year-old Putin, during an election speech on Tuesday, said he has yet to decide on his future but some critics say he will run again. On Wednesday, a small group of activists staged a symbolic protest on Red Square but they were detained by police as a mass gathering are not allowed due to the pandemic. Russia is reporting thousands of new COVID-19 cases every day. Russia has registered 6,54,405 coronavirus cases with 9536 deaths, so far.