Russians are set to approve constitutional reforms on Wednesday denounced by critics as a manoeuvre to permit President Vladimir Putin to remain within the Kremlin for all times.
The modifications had been handed weeks in the past by Russia’s parliament and copies of the brand new structure are already on sale in bookshops, however Putin pushed forward with a nationwide vote that ends Wednesday to confer legitimacy on his plans.
The Kremlin pulled out all of the stops to encourage turnout, with polls prolonged over practically every week, the final day of voting declared a nationwide vacation and prizes — together with residences and automobiles — on provide to voters.
Initially deliberate for April 22, the vote was postponed by the coronavirus pandemic however rescheduled after Putin mentioned the epidemic had peaked and officers started reporting decrease numbers of recent circumstances.
There is little doubt the reforms — which embody patriotic and populist measures like assured minimal pensions and an efficient ban on homosexual marriage — might be authorised.
A state-run exit ballot of greater than 163,000 voters this week confirmed 76 p.c in favour.
Results are anticipated to be introduced after the final polling stations shut at 1800 GMT.
Putin says the modifications are wanted to make sure stability and cement Russian values within the face of pernicious Western influences.
“We are voting for the country… we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren,” he mentioned Tuesday in a last enchantment to voters.
“We can ensure stability, security, prosperity and a decent life only through development, only together and by ourselves.”
Many Russians, particularly those that bear in mind the chaos and financial turmoil of the 1990s, agree.
“There are a lot of problems in our country. And the amendments, they will help solve them, not completely but in part,” Moscow subway employee Vladimir Bodrov mentioned after voting final week.
“And for me, for my children and for my granddaughter, I think that this is a big plus.”
But critics say the reforms are a canopy for Putin to increase his rule after practically 20 years in energy.
Chief opposition campaigner Alexei Navalny mentioned Putin, 67, needs to make himself “president for life” and has referred to as for a boycott.
US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun mentioned Monday the vote was a “foregone conclusion” geared toward “the extension of (Putin’s) rule for what effectively is his natural life.”
Divided, weakened by years of political repression and with little entry to state-controlled media, Putin’s opponents have did not mount a severe “no” marketing campaign. Restrictions on mass gatherings imposed by the coronavirus have additionally prevented demonstrations.
Golos, an impartial election monitor, says it has obtained some 1,300 complaints of violations, together with folks voting greater than as soon as and claims employers are placing stress on workers to forged ballots.
The Kremlin is eager to see a excessive voter turnout and makeshift polling stations cropped throughout the nation, together with some in buses, tents and on avenue benches that had been ridiculed on social media.
Falling approval rankings
Putin’s approval score has suffered in current months, partially over early errors within the authorities’s dealing with of the coronavirus disaster, and stood at a historic low of 59 p.c in a single May ballot.
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 current interview that he had not made up his thoughts about whether or not to run once more and instructed a part of the explanation for the presidential reset was to permit Russia’s political elite to concentrate on governing as an alternative of “hunting for possible successors”.
The different political reforms quantity to a tweaking of Russia’s system of presidency.
The president is granted some new powers together with the fitting to appoint prime judges and prosecutors, whereas parliament has extra affect in naming senior authorities officers.
Russian regulation is given priority over worldwide regulation and prime officers are banned from having overseas citizenship or residence permits.
The minimal wage can’t be under the subsistence stage and state pensions have to be listed to inflation.
The reforms additionally enshrine “faith in God” and Russian because the nationwide language within the structure, outline marriage as between a person and a lady and ban freely giving Russian territory or questioning the nation’s “historical truth”.