Russians overwhelmingly permitted a package deal of constitutional adjustments in a nationwide vote, partial outcomes confirmed Wednesday, permitting President Vladimir Putin to probably lengthen his two-decade rule till 2036.
With 60 p.c of ballots counted after the tip of seven days of voting, 76.9 p.c of voters had supported the reforms, the central election fee mentioned.
There had been little doubt of voters backing the adjustments, which Putin introduced earlier this yr and critics denounced as a manoeuvre to permit him to remain within the Kremlin for all times.
However prime Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny slammed the outcomes as a “enormous lie” which do not mirror actual public opinion.
The amendments had been handed weeks in the past by Russia’s parliament and copies of the brand new structure had been already on sale in bookshops, however Putin had mentioned voter approval was important to offer them legitimacy.
The reforms embrace conservative and populist measures — like assured minimal pensions and an efficient ban on homosexual marriage — however crucially for Putin additionally reset presidential limits permitting him to run twice once more after his present six-year time period expires in 2024.
Turnout as of 2000 GMT was about 65 p.c, the election fee mentioned.
The Kremlin pulled out all of the stops to encourage voting, with polls prolonged over practically per week, the final day of voting declared a nationwide vacation and prizes — together with flats, vehicles and money — on provide to voters.
Initially deliberate for April 22, the referendum was postponed by the coronavirus pandemic however rescheduled after Putin mentioned the epidemic had peaked and officers started reporting decrease numbers of recent instances.
‘Stability, safety, prosperity’
In a closing enchantment to voters on Tuesday, Putin mentioned the adjustments had been wanted to make sure Russia’s future “stability, safety, prosperity”.
State tv confirmed Putin voting Wednesday at his ordinary polling station on the Russian Academy of Sciences, the place he was handed a poll by an electoral employee carrying a surgical masks and gloves.
Wearing a darkish swimsuit and tie, Putin was not carrying any protecting gear.
At a polling station in Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East, 79-year-old Valentina Kungurtseva informed AFP she supported the reforms.
“For us as pensioners, it is crucial that they may improve our pension yearly,” she mentioned.
“So long as we have now a great president, life can be good,” she mentioned.
Within the second metropolis, Saint Petersburg, 20-year-old Sergei Goritsvetov mentioned he opposed the reforms however doubted it might make any distinction.
“I voted towards and I hope there can be many people, however I do not know what it should change,” he mentioned. “At the very least I expressed my opinion.”
Navalny had mentioned Putin, 67 and in energy as president or prime minister since 2000, desires to make himself “president for all times” and referred to as for a boycott, calling the vote illegitimate.
“We’ve got simply watched a present with a deliberate finale,” he wrote on his weblog after polls closed.
“Putin won’t go away himself,” Navalny wrote, “not till we start to come back out to the streets by the a whole bunch of 1000’s, by thousands and thousands.”
The opposition divided and did not mount a severe marketing campaign, with some voting “no” and others staying dwelling. There have been solely small protests in central Moscow and Saint-Petersburg Wednesday.
Falling approval rankings
Golos, an impartial election monitor, mentioned it had acquired a whole bunch of complaints of violations, together with folks voting greater than as soon as and claims employers had been placing stress on workers to forged ballots.
Election fee chief Ella Pamfilova denied any issues on Wednesday, saying solely a few violations had been confirmed and they might don’t have any impact on the end result.
Putin’s approval score has fallen in latest months. It stood at 60 p.c in June in line with pollster Levada, down 20 factors from the months after his re-election in 2018.
Analysts say Putin needed to get the vote over with earlier than Russians — already affected by a number of years of falling incomes — are hit by the total financial affect of the pandemic.
Putin mentioned in a latest interview that he had not determined whether or not to run once more however instructed that a part of the explanation for the presidential reset was to permit Russia’s political elite to give attention to governing as an alternative of “looking for potential successors”.
(Aside from the headline, this story has not been edited by workers and is printed from a syndicated feed.)