78% of Russians vote for reform allowing Putin two more terms

78% of Russians vote for reform allowing Putin two more terms
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Credit: Belga

Russian President Vladimir Putin could remain in power until 2036, as 77.92% of Russians voted for constitutional reform, according to a final count released Thursday.

After 100% of the votes were counted, the "against" vote received 21.27%, according to official figures from the Electoral Commission. Turnout was around 65%.

The vote, originally scheduled for April, was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. To avoid crowding at to the polling stations, it took place over a week, until Wednesday, and voters had to wear protective masks and gloves.

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There was never any doubt as to its outcome, as the reform had been approved by the legislature at the beginning of the year and the new text of the Constitution is already on sale in bookshops.

Opponent Alexei Navalny called the vote a "huge lie", calling on his supporters to mobilise for the next regional elections in September.

One constitutional amendment gives Putin the option of two additional terms in office after the current one ends in 2024. This will give him the possibility of remaining in the Kremlin until 2036, at which point he would be 84 years old.

The revision also introduces into the Constitution conservative principles dear to Putin, such as faith in God, marriage reserved for heterosexuals and patriotic teaching. It also includes social guarantees, such as the indexation of pensions.

The government has used many tricks to ensure resounding success and high voter turnout, according to critics, including a lottery with gifts for participants and vouchers for those who vote online.

Putin is currently on his fourth presidential term, his first two being from 2000 to 2008, followed by four years in position as the Prime Minister, after which then-president Dmitry Medvedev officially proposed that Putin stand for a third term despite the constitution not allowing this.

The Brussels Times

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