An opposition leader Alexei Navalny refused to accept the results of the voting, saying that it was an illegitimate vote designed to legalize Putin’s presidency for life.
By Rakesh Raman
A dubious poll held Wednesday (July 1) to accept constitutional changes has allowed the Russian President Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036.
Reuters quotes official results published Thursday, after 99.9% of ballots had been counted, to state that Putin, 67, will now be able to run for two more six-year terms after the end of his current tenure in 2024. In other words, he can rule until the age of 83.
According to Reuters, the Central Election Commission said 77.9% of votes counted in had supported changing the Russian Constitution while only 21% had voted against the move.
An opposition leader Alexei Navalny refused to accept the results of the voting, saying that it was an illegitimate vote designed to legalize Putin’s presidency for life. Navalny added that with the help of his supporters he will hold “street protests” against Putin after the coronavirus pandemic – possibly in the autumn.
“What Putin fears most is the street,” said Navalny. “He (Putin) will not leave until we start to take to the streets in the hundreds of thousands and in the millions,” Reuters quoted Navalny.
The chattering classes argue that Putin’s attempt to usurp power through constitutional changes is, in fact, a constitutional coup.
Earlier, on June 1, Putin had held a meeting with the leadership of the Central Election Commission and members of the working group on developing proposals for amending the Constitution.
Putin said in the meeting that a national vote on approving the amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation will be held on July 1, 2020.
The 14 articles that are expected to be changed in the Constitution will virtually allow Putin to rule Russia like a monarch. The attempt is to nullify the number of presidential terms served by Putin to allow him to serve his first term if elected to the presidency in 2024.
Putin had dissolved his government in January before attempting to rewrite the Constitution. The Russian government had resigned allowing Putin to make necessary changes in Russia’s Constitution that – according to him – are inevitable for the development of the country.
In his presidential address delivered on January 15 to the Federal Assembly, Putin counted a number of areas in which the progress is required immediately. “We need to address large-scale social, economic, and technological tasks facing the country more quickly and without delay,” he said.
In order to achieve the developmental goals, he proposed to amend Russia’s Constitution with increased powers for the Parliament while maintaining a strong presidential system.
In 2018, Putin had won the presidential election to lead Russia for his second 6-year term. Putin has ruled the country as either President or Prime Minister since 1999. In 2018 election, according to official results, he got more than 76% of the votes with an increase of 12% from his 2012 performance.
Putin’s nearest competitor Pavel Grudinin received just 12% of total votes. One of Kremlin’s staunchest critics Alexei Navalny, who was planning to challenge Putin in the election, was barred from the race.
Although Putin claims that Russia is a democratic country, most believe that Putin is an elected dictator who steals elections to stay in power forever.
By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society. He also creates and publishes a number of digital publications and research reports on different subjects. These publications include the “Covid Health Bulletin” that covers global coronavirus news and views.
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