Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on citizens to participate in the referendum on constitutional reform, which as a pillar of support must ensure that he can continue to rule the country until 2036. The vote, which started a week ago, ends on March 1, July and takes place at a time when Russia is one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus, is experiencing a severe economic crisis and the President has seen its popularity inexorably decrease as the weeks of the pandemic progressed.
The referendum to amend the constitution and allow for the re-election of Putin in the 2024 elections – something that is not currently possible – was to take place on April 22 and was a priori a process, given the popularity of the one man who has directed the designs of Russia since 2000, enjoyed by the citizens.
However, COVID-19 postponed the consultation and, although initially spread seemed limited, it skyrocketed, initially with Moscow as the main driver and pushing Russia into third place in the most punished countries.
In light of the state of affairs and fearing that postponing the vote until after the summer would take its toll on participation and support for the management of the coronavirus crisis, Putin eventually chose to hold the referendum on 1 July.
“Tomorrow, July 1, is the most important voting day. I ask you, dear friends, to speak your word. Every vote is the most important,” Putin said Tuesday, emphasizing that the constitutional changes will only come into effect with the approval of citizens. .
In a message to the public, he argued that if the changes continue, values of social interest will be established as the highest guarantees in the Magna Carta. “We are not just voting for amendments in the form of clear legal standards. We are voting for the country in which we want to live, with modern education and health, with reliable social protection for citizens, with an effective authority responsible for society”, he said. .
“We vote for the country we work for and we want to pass our children and grandchildren,” he summarized without referring to the fact that one of the amendments makes it possible to reset the counter of his terms and make it easier for him. to be re-elected in 2024. and again in 2030.
However, the president said on June 21 that he is not ruling out “the possibility” of being a candidate in 2024, arguing that if he did not appear, the Russian authorities would look for a successor over the next two years when what to do next according to him “working and not looking for successors”.
The gesture was seen as an attempt to give his supporters an extra incentive to vote in a referendum whose main task is to guarantee their continuity in power. In addition, the approved constitutional reform now to be adopted extends the powers of Parliament and the Constitutional Court, as well as the government’s social obligations, for example by setting a minimum wage and linking pensions to the cost of living. It is also considering including the ban on gay marriage in the Magna Carta.
His message seems to have worked for the time being. According to Sputnik, of the slightly more than a million Russians who registered to vote electronically in the consultation, 90 percent had already done so by Tuesday morning. This option was only available to residents of Moscow and the Nizhni Novgorod region and the deadline ends on Tuesday.
For its part, the head of Russia’s Central Electoral Commission, Ela Pamfilova, has revealed that national participation is 45.7 percent, after 49.6 million Russians have already exercised their voting rights.
The measures taken to curb the spread of the virus have had a strong impact on the Russian economy, already shocked by the sharp fall in oil prices. The state budget depends on a third of energy exports, so the confluence of both factors will be felt not only in the state’s treasury, but also in the pockets of the citizens.