Russian voters overwhelmingly back a ploy by President Vladimir Putin to rule until 2036

Or more precisely, the Russians were given the opportunity to endorse the country’s political status quo. The vote paves the way for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has ruled for two decades, to remain in power until 2036.

“Our country, our constitution, our decision” is the catchphrase of the newsletter that explains constitutional reform to voters. The brochure details a number of amendments, including a family values ​​provision that defines marriage strictly as a “union of a man and a woman.”

Also highlighted are provisions promoting patriotic education and amendments on environmental protection and animal welfare. But the pamphlet misses a key point: Changes to the constitution effectively reset the clock to the limits of Putin’s mandate, allowing him to seek two more periods of six years when his presidency ends in 2024.

It is not surprising, then, that the government has promoted a solid effort to get the vote out, with a very clear objective: to guarantee that the public gives resounding support to the constitutional change.

The first results made this clear. Russia’s Central Election Commission released a preliminary tally of results on Wednesday in a national referendum on constitutional changes, saying 73% of citizens who voted support the amendments.

In a departure from practice in the presidential election, the CEC released the statement on Twitter around 3:00 pm Moscow time (8 am ET), five hours before the polls closed in the capital. The statement did not elaborate on where those votes were counted; Polls at that time had already closed in Russia’s Far East.

Members of the electoral commission at an electoral college in Abakan, the capital of the Khakassia region.
The Russian government opened early voting last week in what was officially described as a measure to encourage social distancing amid the coronavirus, but critics have said the government withdrew the vote and declared Wednesday a national holiday to encourage participation. of voters.

In a statement on Wednesday, CCA director Ella Pamfilova defended the process and said: “Throughout the voting period, no serious violations were found that would have required the procedures of the Central Election Commission.”

The first results recall the 2018 presidential election, when Putin won reelection in a landslide with three-fourths of the votes cast. Then, as now, Putin had the advantages of incumbency, plus a servile state medium that allows little open debate on domestic politics and a large state sector that encourages employees to cast votes for the status quo.
A woman shows her passport to members of the electoral commission during voting at home.
Putin’s popularity is genuine, despite being dented during the coronavirus blockade. The day before the vote, the Russian president appeared in a videotaped message in front of an exciting new monument to Soviet soldiers killed in World War II.

“They fought so that we could live in peace, work, love, create value and be proud of Russia, a country with a unique civilization and a great culture that unites the destinies, hopes and aspirations of many generations of our ancestors.” said.

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“We are going to vote for the country where we want to live, with state-of-the-art education and medical care, a reliable system of social protection and an effective government that is accountable to the people. We are going to vote for a country for the benefit of which we have been working and that we would like to pass on to our children and grandchildren. “

Those can be nice feelings, to be sure. But that does not mean that the referendum sits well with all Russians, many of whom are tired of the Putin government.

A group of activists established in Red Square in the form of numbers 2036, reported the independent Russian news channel TV Rain. The video posted by TV Rain correspondent Maria Borzunova showed protesters lying on the cobblestones in front of Lenin’s Tomb.

TV Rain reported that the activists included Moscow municipal deputy Lucy Shteyn. The OVD-Info website, which monitors the arrests, quoted lawyers as saying that those involved in the protest were detained and later released without charge.

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Other Russians posted photos on social media of NYET controlled ballot polling stations (no). A few hundred people gathered for a small demonstration in Pushkin Square in central Moscow, a favorite gathering point for opposition protests. A protester there had a sign saying “Putin Forever?”

In an Instagram post, Lola Nordic, a DJ and feminist activist from St. Petersburg, was forceful.

“Today I am going to vote against Putin’s constitutional amendments that he created to be able to reign here for another 16 years,” he wrote. “I’m sooo tired of this shit.”

But the message of Wednesday’s vote is clear: Putin is not going anywhere. In a video posted on Telegram, Ramzan Kadyrov, the leading leader of the Chechen Republic, openly said that Putin should be “president for life.”

For now, Putin’s presidency is likely to end in 2036, when he turns 84.