Russians overwhelmingly back constitutional reforms allowing Putin to extend rule

Yolanda Curtis
July 2, 2020

Almost 78 per cent of Russian voters backed constitutional reforms that could keep President Vladimir Putin in power until 2036, election officials said on Thursday.

On the basis of 42 percent of the counted votes in the referendum in Russian Federation, 76 percent of citizens voted for the adoption of amendments to the Constitution, the Central Election Commission announced last night.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shows his passport to a member of an election commission as he arrives to take part in voting at a polling station in Moscow on Wednesday.

Russians began voting last week on the package of constitutional changes proposed by Putin in January, including a reset of presidential term limits allowing him to run twice again after his current six-year term ends in 2024.

As a result, much effort was expended this year to get Russians out of their houses - where they're still being cautioned by some authorities to shelter from COVID-19 - and vote for the proposed amendments. They have already been reviewed by Russia's supreme court and backed by regional lawmakers.

The final results showed 65 per cent voted yes to the reforms in Moscow, and 77.6 per cent in St Petersburg.

But despite this provision which clearly strengthens his control over the country, the president is keen to keep everyone guessing about his future intentions; other changes introduced by the constitutional amendments now approved are created to strengthen the powers of the Russian parliament over the president, thereby hinting that Mr Putin is not planning to stick around forever.

Initially scheduled for April 22, the vote was postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Russian Federation.

"Prime Minister conveyed his keenness to welcome President Putin in India for the bilateral Summit", the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

President Putin thanked him for the phone call and reiterated his commitment to further strengthen the Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership between the two countries in all spheres, it added. "This will certainly become the foundation for a better future for the country", he said. "I have not decided anything for myself yet. If the constitution allows the opportunity, we will see", he said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday the result was a "triumph".

The week-long referendum ended late on Wednesday night and all the votes have now been counted: the constitutional amendments were approved by just over 78 per cent of the Russian electorate, with around two-thirds of those entitled to vote casting their ballots.

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