Early results show strong backing for reforms extending Putin rule

A woman holds a placard reading ‘Boycott to Putin’s amendments’ as she protests against amendments to the Constitution of Russia on Dvortsovaya Square in downtown St Petersburg on July 1, 2020, as Russians vote in the final day of a ballot on constitutional reforms allowing President Putin to potentially stay in power until 2036. — AFP pic
A woman holds a placard reading ‘Boycott to Putin’s amendments’ as she protests against amendments to the Constitution of Russia on Dvortsovaya Square in downtown St Petersburg on July 1, 2020, as Russians vote in the final day of a ballot on constitutional reforms allowing President Putin to potentially stay in power until 2036. — AFP pic

MOSCOW, July 1 — Early results from a nationwide vote that ends today showed Russians overwhelmingly backing constitutional reforms that pave the way for President Vladimir Putin to extend his rule.

With results counted from just over four per cent of polling stations, nearly 70 per cent of voters had backed the reforms, the commission reported on its website.

Results of the six-day vote were being released from Russia’s sparsely populated Far East, where polls had already closed, as voters continued to cast ballots in more populated areas including Moscow.

The commission said nationwide voter turnout was at nearly 63 per cent.

Russians began voting last week on the package of constitutional changes proposed by Putin, including a reset of presidential term limits that would allow him to run twice again after his current six-year term ends in 2024.

Other amendments would strengthen presidential and parliamentary powers, enshrine traditional values including an effective ban on gay marriage and guarantee better minimum wages and pensions.

Russia’s two houses of parliament have already approved the amendments but Putin said they would only take effect if supported by a majority of voters.

Initially planned for April 22, the vote was postponed by the coronavirus outbreak but rescheduled after Putin said the epidemic had peaked and officials began reporting lower numbers of new cases.

Kremlin opponents have denounced the vote as a farce and accused the government of risking lives by going ahead with it as Russia continues to record new coronavirus cases. — AFP

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