Last day of voting for a week in Russia to overhaul the constitution, ended without surprises. Vladimir Putin (who was first elected president in 2000) was given the opportunity to remain in office until 2036. If that happens, the former KGB officer will take over Josef Stalin as the country’s longest serving leader, The Moscow Times reported.
In the ballot for an unprecedented week, Russia chooses to agree or not on a bundle of more than 200 amendments to their constitution. Such changes include social protection such as a minimum retirement guarantee and confirmation in traditionalist ideological documents, including the affirmation of Russian beliefs on God and the definition of marriage that may be only between men and women.
As a whole, the change was the greatest constitutional overhaul since it was written two years after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
However, there is one amendment that is the key to the President of Russia and its supporters, and which critics think is the reason the amendment is presented in one vote Yes or No.
The amendment cancelled the deadline of Putin’s term (second consecutive term and its fourth would end in 2024), allowing him to run for longer positions in 2024 and 2030.
“All we have is Putin,” said Galina Morozova (81 years) at The Moscow Times outside polling in central Moscow, Wednesday (1/7) afternoon, after giving The vote Yes to the amendment. “We must make sure he is still in power.”
Although a referendum was postponed from its original date in late April due to a pandemic, it has long been considered a formality. Even before the vote began on June 25, the bookstores in Moscow had begun selling copies of the new Constitution, which had been approved by both the Parliamentary Assembly (state Duma and the Federal Council) as well as the National Regional Assembly in March.
Ahead of the commencement of the vote, Grigory Melkonyants, an independent election watchdog of Golos, described the vote as one of the “most manipulatives” and “least transparent” in the country’s history.
A week later, before the last day the vote began (which Putin declared as a national holiday so the Russian citizen can go to the polling station) Golos has received more than 1,500 complaints of infringement. The organization said, about half of the complaint was credible.
Election Commission officials formed a number of new procedures for the referendum, which the Melkonyants warned could allow fraudulent voters.
First, voters are allowed to choose from home on request within the first six days of voting. In a single district of Moscow, a municipality representative found, the number of votes has increased 12 times compared to previous years, without any documentation proving people actually vote.
Voters are also permitted to vote in emergency sound booths outside their homes, which range from car luggage, benches to tree stump. There is no electoral supervisor assigned to the location.
Voters can also provide their voice mail Online. Some Russian citizens found this allowed them to vote twice, even three times, The Moscow Times noted.
In what appears to be evidence of cheating, the number of voters in the autonomous district of Yamal-Nenets before the last day of the vote, on Wednesday (1/7), reached more than 100 percent.
Ahead of the vote, Putin asked election Commission officials to ensure a clean selection. In his final speech to voters on Tuesday (30/6), Putin stood in front of the backdrop of a new World War II Monument. He did not mention the amendment that would allow him to run again.
“We can ensure that stability, security, prosperity, and a decent life are only through development, only together and by ourselves,” Putin said.
Analysts estimate, voting will reach between 70 to 75 percent support. Critics say, they estimate those figures because that would allow Putin to call the majority support him, without being too high to trigger an accusation of election fraud.
In winter 2011, the situation led to the Bolotnaya protests, the greatest rebellion against Putin’s reign.
Perhaps the only surprise of the day, on Wednesday afternoon, almost five hours before the closure of a poll in Moscow, the Central Election Commission began to publish the results: 72.9 percent had voted across the country.
“We usually have a moratorium on initial results because it can influence voters who have not yet voted,” said Melkonyants to The Moscow Times.
“But they have already made their own rules. What you have is the dirtiest technology used to influence voters. “
“We could not trust this result,” he added.
Therefore, the toughest critic of the Kremlin and the de facto opposition leader Alexei Navalny called on his supporters to boycott the elections, rather than participate in what he called a joke.
Other opposition activists gathered around the movement they called “campaign No!”
Throughout the day, the group published its own exit poll for Moscow and St. Petersburg. At the beginning of the night, the results showed 47 percent of the constitutional changes in Moscow and only 37.8 percent in St. Petersburg.
“I knew I could not influence the outcome, but I would feel guilty if I hadn’t tried,” said Polina Volkova, a 23-year-old servant, explained why he chose against the amendment.
Volkova also said, he did not see why voting should be carried out during a pandemic, with a new daily corona virus infection still reaching thousands. Critics say, the Kremlin wants to push the amendment due to dissatisfaction over the overflowing pandemic responses, given Putin’s approval rating hovering near the historic lowest level of 60 percent.
The TPS of Moscow may be mistakenly regarded as Corona virus testing Center. Workers and volunteers wore self-protective equipment and measured the temperature of voters. They also share a gift bag with latex gloves and disposable masks.
“What we see is an increasingly unashamed regime breaking the law to push what it needs,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of The R. Politics Analysis project, quoted The Moscow Times. “But in the end, they lie to themselves. There is no 70 percent of this support shown as a result. “
Small protests against reforms erupted throughout the day.
Activists at Red Square were arrested and then quickly freed after they lay down to form “2036”, the year Putin would be able to rule after the amendment was passed.
In cities across the country, Info-OVD police watchdogs count two dozen activists arrested.
In the capital, “campaign No!” called for a protest at Pushkin Square in the city centre on Wednesday (1/7) night. But with Navalny abstained from political action related voting, the demonstration was silenced.
Opposition-minded Russian citizens projected an atmosphere of hellessness throughout the day.
Alexander Klyukin (63 years) a former member of the Moscow Election Commission, resigned last year because he said he realized the vote in Russia could not affect the process. Nevertheless, he is still present to vote.
“Doing something is still better than not doing anything,” Klyukin said to The Moscow Times. “Otherwise, we approve the ruler forever.”