Posted July 1, 2020 9:29 pm by

Russians set to back reforms allowing Putin to extend rule

The Kremlin is keen to see a high voter turnout © AFP / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV

Moscow, Russian Federation, Jul 1 – Russians are set to approve constitutional reforms on Wednesday denounced by critics as a manoeuvre to allow President Vladimir Putin to stay in the Kremlin for life.

The changes were passed weeks ago by Russia’s parliament and copies of the new constitution are already on sale in bookshops, but Putin says a nationwide vote ending Wednesday is essential to give legitimacy to the plans.

The reforms include conservative and populist measures — like guaranteed minimum pensions and an effective ban on gay marriage — but crucially for Putin will also reset presidential term limits allowing him to potentially remain in power until 2036.

Russians set to back reforms allowing Putin to extend rule

Russian President Vladimir Putin cast his ballot in a Moscow polling station © SPUTNIK/AFP / Alexey DRUZHININ

The Kremlin pulled out all the stops to encourage turnout, with polls extended over nearly a week, the last day of voting declared a national holiday and prizes — including apartments and cars — on offer to voters.

Initially planned for April 22, the referendum was postponed by the coronavirus pandemic but rescheduled after Putin said the epidemic had peaked and officials began reporting lower numbers of new cases.

There is little doubt the reforms will be approved, with a state-run exit poll of more than 163,000 voters this week showing 76 percent in favour.

Results are expected to be announced after the last polling stations close at 1800 GMT.

Putin says the changes are needed to ensure stability and cement Russian values in the face of pernicious Western influences.

– ‘Stability, security, prosperity’ –

“We are voting for the country… we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren,” he said Tuesday in a final appeal to voters.

Russians set to back reforms allowing Putin to extend rule

Russia has taken measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease during the vote © AFP / Dimitar DILKOFF

“We can ensure stability, security, prosperity and a decent life only through development, only together and by ourselves.”

State television showed Putin voting on Wednesday at his usual polling station at the Russian Academy of Sciences, where he was handed a ballot by an electoral worker wearing a surgical mask and gloves.

Dressed in a dark suit and tie, Putin was not wearing any protective gear.

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