MOSCOW | The Russian are expected to approve Wednesday a comprehensive constitutional reform initiated by Vladimir Putin officially to organize the future of the country, but that the opposition sees as a way to perpetuate its stranglehold on Russia.
The vote, originally planned in April, has been postponed because of the outbreak of coronavirus. To avoid too strong crowding in the polling stations, the voting was spread out over a week. Masks, gloves and gels disinfectants are made available to voters.
The first results are expected after 18 h GMT.
The doubt is not allowed as to the outcome of the vote: the reforms have been approved by the legislature in the beginning of the year, and the new text of the Constitution is already on sale in bookstores.
Vladimir Putin on Tuesday sent to all 110 million voters for the call to ensure “the stability, security and prosperity” of a country he boasts of having gone out of the chaos that followed the fall of the USSR.
In the course of June, it had deemed necessary the amendment granting him the right to two terms at the end of the current in 2024, because Russia would have to “work” and not get lost in “a quest for potential successors to”.
God, marriage, retirement
This change would allow him to remain in the Kremlin until 2036, the year of its 84 years. Other reforms also reinforce certain powers to the presidential election.
The reform introduced into the Constitution a number of conservative principles dear to the president — Faith in God, marriage restricted to heterosexuals, patriotic teaching, as well as the social guarantees, such as the indexation of pensions and a higher minimum wage than the subsistence minimum.
Critics of the Kremlin, including the opponent Alexei Navalny, consider that the referendum has no other purpose than to provide him with “a life presidency” and that the other measures are intended to bring the Russians to the polls.
Among the voters of Vladivostok, in the Far East, when interviewed by the AFP, the issue of presidential mandates divides.
Oleg Doubov, an engineer of 55 years, is “that it should (be able to) there is a change, even if I respect it, and appreciate it as president.” As for the other measures, “almost all could have been signed into law, without a change in the Constitution,” he complained.
Conversely, Valentina Koungourtseva, retired 79-year-old, is delighted: “For us retirees, this is important, all the years our pension will be enhanced (…) this is why I’m coming.” As for Mr Putin to power: “as long as we will have a good president, life will be good”.
The vote comes as the popularity of the Russian president has fallen in the wake of a reform much maligned pensions and the crisis of the sars coronavirus. From may 2018 to June 2020, its approval rates measured by the institute’s independent Levada increased from 79 % to 60 %.
According to critics of the Kremlin, the regime has multiplied the tricks to ensure a resounding success and a strong participation on Wednesday.
Success on the measure
The most unusual was the installation of voting centres in fortune outdoors, in the course of sports or games, without great respect for the secrecy of the vote nor adequate monitoring of the polls.
The aim of the operation, according to the opposition, not to protect the electorate of the coronavirus, but of producing a result on measurement.
“When the Constitution is voting on a tree stump or in the trunk of a car, it doesn’t look serious”, has admitted to AFP on condition of anonymity the assessor of a polling station in the north-west of Russia.
The NGOS specializing in election observation Golos, honnie authorities, has also denounced the pressure line officials and employees to go and vote.
It has also denounced the huge differences in voter turnout from one region to the other.
“Such differences can only be explained by the fact that citizens are forced to vote in some regions or by adulterations direct”, stated the NGOS on Tuesday.
Questioned on the subject, the spokesman of the Kremlin, Dmitry Peskov, spoke of “isolated problems” that “do not threaten the credibility” of the poll.