Russia: last day of a referendum under the sign of Putin

MOSCOW | The Russian are expected to approve Wednesday a comprehensive constitutional reform, initiated by president Vladimir Putin and who, according to its critics, seeks to perpetuate its hold on Russia after 20 years in power.

This vote was originally scheduled in April, but had been postponed because of the outbreak of coronavirus. To avoid too strong crowding in the polling stations without undermining the participation, the voting runs from 25 June to 1 July. First results should be known shortly after 18h GMT (14 in Qu├ębec) on Wednesday.

The doubt is not allowed as to the outcome: 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 himself on Tuesday sent to all 110 million voters for the call to ensure “the stability, security and prosperity” of a country that he claims to have rebuilt after the chaos that followed the fall of the USSR.

“The sovereignty of Russia depends on our sense of responsibility”, he added.

Mr. Putin has not, however, made reference to the amendment, the more marking, one that allows him to remain in the Kremlin until 2036, the year of its 84 years. In the state of the law, he would have had to withdraw from the presidency in 2024, at the end of the current mandate.

In the course of June, he deemed this change necessary for the country to not get lost in “a quest for potential successors to”.

Other reforms introduce a number of conservative principles and patriotism dear to the Russian leadership.

Success on the measure

Critics of the Kremlin, in particular, the opponent number one Alexei Navalny, did not campaign, of the fact of confinement and because they felt that the referendum was fraudulent, and was not intended to guarantee Vladimir Putin a “life presidency”.

The number two of the american diplomacy, Stephen Biegun, also noted that “many consider” that the vote “would lead to the extension of the de facto life of its power”.

According to critics of the system, the power has multiplied the tricks to ensure a resounding success and a strong participation.

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, is not to protect the electorate of the new coronavirus, but of producing a result on measurement.

The NGOS specialized in the observation of elections, Golos, honnie authorities, has also denounced pressures on the officials, and other businesses on their employees to push them to vote. She has also documented cases of multiple voting.

“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.

Conservatism

“Voters have told us frankly that their work has compelled them to come,” he added.

Questioned on the subject, the spokesman of the Kremlin, Dmitry Peskov, spoke of “isolated problems” but said that they do “not threaten the credibility of the result of the poll”.

In addition to the question of mandates, the amendments reinforce some of the prerogatives from the president, such as appointments and dismissals of judges.

This is in addition to measures of societal as the inscription in the Constitution of the “faith in God” and marriage as a heterosexual institution. Social principles are also included, like the pension and indexed to minimum wages guaranteed.

The children are listed as “the most important priority of public policy” and the State must instill “patriotism, good citizenship and respect for one’s elders”.

These principles, intended to unite Russians, are at the heart of the system of patriotic values conservative head of State.

The vote comes as the popularity of Mr Putin, has suffered a reform much maligned pensions and the crisis of the sars coronavirus. From may 2018 to may 2020, its approval rates measured by the institute’s independent Levada increased from 79% to 59%.

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