Landslide vote by Russians grant Putin to extend his rule until 2036
MOSCOW (RUSSIA) – Russians opened the doorway to Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036 by voting for changes in the constitution. This will allow him to run again for presidential twice. However, critics said the outcome was misrepresented on an industrial scale.
According to the official results published on Thursday, after 99.9% of ballots had been counted, the former KGB officer who has ruled Russia for more than two decades as president or prime minister had smoothly won the right to run for two more six-year terms after the current one ends in 2024.
Going by this, Putin, 67, could rule until the age of 83.
The Central Election Commission said 77.9% of votes counted across Russia was in favour of changing the constitution. Just over 21% had voted against, it said.
Ella Pamfilova, head of the commission, said the voting had been transparent and that officials had made sure to maintain its sanctity.
Opposition politician Alexei Navalny had a contrary view and called the vote an illegitimate and illegal show formulated to legalise Putin’s presidency for life.
“We’ll never recognise this result,” Navalny told supporters in a video.
Navalny said the opposition would not go out protesting for now because of the coronavirus, but would do so on a bigger scale in the autumn if its candidates were not allowed to contest in regional elections or if their results were falsified.
“What Putin fears most is the street,” according to Navalny. “He… will not leave until we start to take to the streets in the hundreds of thousands and in the millions.”
Russians had been encouraged to support Putin’s power move, which critics say is a constitutional coup, with prize draws offering flats and an ad campaign throwing light on other constitutional amendments. Following the same reform bundle, it includes pensions protection and a de facto ban on same-sex marriages.
One-off payments of 10,000 roubles (£113.48) were handed over to those with children at Putin’s order as people headed to polling stations on Wednesday. It marked the last day for voting, which was held over seven days to limit the spread of the virus to the maximum.
Moscow resident Mikhail Volkov said he’d voted for reforms. “We need radical changes and I’m for them,” he said.
‘READ SOMETHING AND VOTE’
Others were less enthusiastic.
Lyudmila, another voter, said, “I didn’t read about the amendments if I’m honest. What’s the point of voting if they’ve already decided for you. It’s like that in our country – read something and vote. I voted.”
Turnout was 65%, election officials said.
That said, Putin, who is already the longest-serving leader in modern Russian history since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, did not talk much about how the changes could affect his own career during an eve-of-vote speech on Tuesday.
He has said he yet to decide on his future. Critics, who relate to Putin with a latter-day Tsar, say they are sure he will run again, but some analysts say he might think of keeping his options open to not become a lame duck.
At 60%, according to the Levada pollster, his approval rating remains high but well down on its peak of nearly 90%.
As Russia reported thousands of new COVID-19 cases each day, opponents have been unable to protest but have ensured to mark their defiance of the vote online, sharing photographs of polling stations in apartment stairwells, supermarket trolleys and the boot of a car.
A small group of activists protested symbolically at the Red Square on Wednesday afternoon, forming the year 2036 using their prostrate bodies before police detained them, TV Rain reported.
Separately, the “No! Campaign,” called on supporters to head for Moscow’s Pushkinskaya Square after voting.
Andrei Pivovarov, an activist, said in a video, “We need to remind the authorities that we exist and that there are tens of millions of us who do not want Putin to rule until 2036.”
In the event, only dozens made their presence felt amid a heavy police presence, a Reuters reporter said. Opposition politicians said a couple of hundred had attended. They echoed “Russia will be free.” Another slogan voiced that Putin should resign.
Golos, a non-governmental organisation that monitors elections, said numerous discrepancies crept in with the vote and it would not be able to officially confirm the result as legitimate.
(Photos syndicated via Reuters)
This story has been edited by BH staff and is published from a syndicated field.